UFL: Freddy Gonzalez turns back the clock

Freddy. Image copyright Bob.

It’s as if the world becomes a better place with every goal Freddy Razon Gonzalez scores.

Whenever he finds the back of the net, I feel as if ten hectares of denuded Amazonian jungle is suddenly reforested, and five kittens destined for euthanasia magically find loving homes.  And maybe for each strike, ten poor kids in Africa get the textbooks they need for school, and Justin Bieber’s record sales plummet ten percent.

There is just something profoundly awesome about this 36-year old man still lighting it up for Loyola at this level. Last Saturday he picked up his first UFL divison one hat trick as the Sparks dropped Army 4-1.

A quick history lesson. Gonzalez learned to play football in Colegio San Agustin in Makati. Then played college soccer in the states. Came back and starred for the Philippine national team from 1998 to perhaps just before the 2004 Tiger Cup, if I am not mistaken. Scored four international goals at a time when international games were few and far between.

Gonzalez was an oddity in the team then; a fair-skinned, long-haired tisoy amongst a squad of dusky, crew-cut Negrenses and Ilonggos. But boy could he play.

Not only did Gonzalez play for Kaya and ICTSI, he also plied his trade as a professional in the tough Vietnamese league, and tried his luck in Australia too. He once told me that he was better technically than many of the Aussies, but lacked fitness.

With little happening in the local football scene, Gonzales hung up his boots, got married, and became a businessman, a rather successful one.

But when football exploded in 2010, he must have felt the itch.

In 2012 he tested the waters with SuperBad in the Weekend Football League. Killed it there. Suited up for Pachanga in the second division, a team he happened to own. He became the leading scorer in that division, propelling that side to the top flight.

He then sold Pachanga to Diliman owner John Gutierrez and got roped into Loyola, who offered him a three-year deal.

Since then he’s been a quietly effective striker for Loyola, with a simple, elegant, pass-and-move game that yields goals… when he’s healthy.

Gonzalez got his PCL wrenched last year and missed most of the league. This year it’s been bursitis. But when he strode on to the pitch against Army on Saturday, to replace a seemingly hobbled Phil Younghusband, all of that quickly washed away.

His first strike was off a gorgeous through ball from James Younghusband. Gonzalez beat his marker and, off one bounce, volleyed powerfully past the keeper for 2-0.

Then he scored off a glancing header from a terrific Paolo Bugas cross, and again off another neat delivery from the FEU midfielder.

In an age when kids like to dribble the ball around defenders like Lionel Messi, Gonzalez prefers one touch passing and constant movement, better for befuddling defenders.

His recent form, thanks in part to several niggling injuries, had been pedestrian, but not on Saturday, as Loyola tries to keep track of league-leading Global.

“I was just sick and tired of playing bad” he confessed in the post game press con.

But what is amazing about Freddy and Loyola is that three, not two generations of Filipino football are converging in this one team. Freddy was our Phil before Phil came along. Not only are they playing on the same side, but Bugas, the gifted youngster from Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, is there too.

Freddy thrives today thanks to a rigorous diet and exercise regimen (it helps when you own a gym) that keeps his body perfectly sculpted. Jinggoy Valmayor calls him “Wolverine.”

He may be in his mid-thirties, but this born-again footballer has found his stride, and will not be leaving the spotlight any time soon. The description on his Twitter says it all.

“What’s my age again?”

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4 responses to “UFL: Freddy Gonzalez turns back the clock

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