Last Sunday, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia came to an end with a Final match fought between France, which has reached this stage twice before (and won one in 1998), and first-timer finalist Croatia. Both teams actually faced off against several countries that have won the World Cup in the past, ultimately facing each other at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15. France would beat Croatia 4-2, getting their second FIFA World Cup title two decades after the first. Despite not having their own team in the tournament, Filipinos found their attention drawn to the FIFA18 Finals due to one of France’s players being a Filipino-French.
CNN Philippines has it that a lot of buzz has been generated among Philippine followers of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup in Russia, regarding Alphonse Areola of the French National Men’s Football Team, which was victorious in the final match against Russia. That is because Team France’s 25-year old backup goalkeeper is actually Filipino, having been born in the French capital of Paris to parents who were both Filipino. That actually made him eligible, for a time, to be recruited into the Philippine National Team (AZKALS) in the past.
Outside of his duties with the French National Men’s Football Team, Alphonse Areola is the primary goalkeeper for the French professional football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Unfortunately, he is only the backup for Team France (Les Bleus) in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, meaning he sat out the entire slate of games in the tournament while first-choice goalie Hugo Lloris was at the field all the way to the Final game against Croatia. That of course did not stop Areola from celebrating with his teammates on the momentous occasion. He even had a photo of himself holding the World Cup on his official Twitter page.
That photo could have been taken with Areola in an AZKALS uniform. Back in 2011, he was still eligible to represent the Philippines for FIFA and was indeed extended an invitation, but Areola spent his whole lifetime in France and therefore decided to go with Les Bleus for the Cup.
Aside from Areola, the rest of the Les Bleus roster was notable for being a blending of players from various ethnicities and cultures. No less than 15 of the French players were of African descent, and their contribution to the victory is being hailed as a triumph of the positive benefits of immigration, something that flies in the face of the recent anti-immigrant attitudes of many Frenchmen in past years.
While Alphonse Areola had nothing much to do as a player during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there is a chance that he could graduate to primary goalkeeper in time for the 2020 European Cup and the next FIFA World Cup in Qatar for 2022.
Among those who have congratulated Team France and Areola in particular is French Ambassador to the Philippines Nicolas Galey, who mentioned the Filipino-Frenchman’s name in his statement celebrating the victory.
Image courtesy of Twitter