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Alexandria FilAm Scores for Azkals

Nate Burkey

Nate Burkey

The Philippine’s Azkals has for the first time in the nation’s sports history advanced to the 2nd round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers by twice beating Sri Lanka. That feat was made possible in part by the heroics of a recent recruit, a Filipino American booter from Alexandria, Virginia.

Nate Burkey has gone from teaching at the Mary McLeod Bethune public school in Washington NE to signing autographs for adoring Azkal fans. “It’s unreal,” he concluded. Another FilAm Azkals member is 16-year-old DC United Academy midfielder Jose “OJ” Porteria from Fairfax, Virginia. He is the son of Manila Mail real estate columnist Jocelyn Porteria.

Sri Lanka was up ahead in the 41st minute of play during their first World Cup qualifier game at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombia last June 30. Burkey was making his debut for the Azkals. On the 50th minute, James Younghusband saved a header coming from a free kick, and this set up Burkey’s goal that salvaged a draw with Sri Lanka.

It was Burkey’s first international goal.

The Azkals struggled for much of that match but it was an entirely a different story in their 2nd meeting on July 3 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

They beat Sri Lanka 4-0 in front of over 14,000 rain-drenched but jubilant fans, arranging a 2-leg elimination match with the deadlier Kuwait XI later this year for a slot in the 2014 World Cup.

The Azkals spread their 4 goals throughout the game. Wingman Chieffy Caligdong shot the ball through the net on the 18th minute; striker Phil Younghusband followed through on the 42nd minute and the last goal on the 56th minute but not before Filipino-Spaniard Angel Guirado delivered the 3rd goal after half time.

Sri Lanka coach Jang Jung conceded they lost to a better team. “The Philippine players are much younger, we can see that clearly,” he observed.

The 26-year-old Burkey started playing when he was just 4, according to his FilAm mother Manilena Payos. “Nate just tagged along during games. At first he would play with the younger siblings of the players and next thing he was kicking balls,” she recalled.

Payos explained she introduced her sons to the sport after their father passed away, and saw it as a way to bring normalcy to their young, grieving family.

Burkey played at T.C. Williams High School and the Virginia Commonwealth University. After trying out with teams in Belgium and Bulgaria, he juggled his teaching job with playing in amateur soccer leagues in the Washington area. His Filipino roots may have given him the ticket to every soccer player’s dream, the World Cup.

“It’s a complete life change,” he said. “It’s not really something I wanted or dreamed of doing, but now that it’s here, it’s a dream come true.”<R>parThe Azkals are currently ranked 29 of 46 in FIFA’s Asian rankings and No. 159 in the world. With the win against Sri Lanka, that field is greatly reduced to 30 teams.

Burkey is basking in his new-found popularity. He was quoted in the Alexandria Times as saying, “Out here, it’s not as much money, but I’m doing what I love. I’m making money and I’m living very comfortably and it’s like I’m working, but it doesn’t feel like I’m working.”

His mother confesses that she’s more concerned about her son finding a stable job than pursuing a soccer career. (rjj)


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