FLEET-FOOTED midfielder Yrick Gallantes will be one of the weapons available for Serbian coach Goran Milosevic when the National Under-22 squad kicks off action against Cambodia today at the start of the 30th Southeast Asian Games football championships at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Sporting unmistakable Filipino features, Gallantes, 18, is a Fil-Scottish player who was born in Manila and whose parents migrated to Scotland when he was six years old.
He comes with sterling credentials, being a member of the Hibernian FC Under-20 squad whose senior club plays with the Scottish First Division.
Former Azkals goalkeeping coach Steve Marcella, who had connections with the club, found him out and asked him to try out with the national senior squad in Thailand last March conducted by coach Scott Cooper. Much to Gallantes’ surprise, he made the grade.
Gallantes played in the national squad’s 4-1 win over Guam in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers and was on the bench with the squad that played away games against the Maldives in Male and Syria in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates last week.
“He (Gallantes) is one of the speedier players we have and can accelerate from the back to the front in attack in no time at all,” noted National Under-22 assistant coach Ernie Nierras, who was also impressed by the 5-foot-11 player’s versatility.
Gallantes, who still speaks fluent Filipino, is thrilled to make his SEA Games debut and “proud to represent my nation. You gain a lot of confidence when you have local fans behind you. ”
Having worked with the Azkals already “you know more less the standard you have to play so the transition was easier to the Under-22 squad,” he said.
Gallantes was vocal about his goals in his maiden appearance in the regional meet: “I want our team to go beyond the group stage and make history and I believe we can do it. I want to make football popular again in the Philippines.”