CARMONA, CAVITE — When Henri Bandeken Fong stepped foot on the PFF National Training Center pitch, he likely didn’t imagine having such an impressive showing for his new team, Maharlika Manila.
This despite losing 0-1 to Kaya-Iloilo in matchday one of the 2020 Philippines Football League sponsored by Qatar Airways.
The endgame statistics tallied a total of 18 shots for Kaya, with 10 on goal. But only one goal, by Jayson Panhay, was conceded and that was all down to the Cameroonian’s outstanding performance. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played in a long time due to the onset of COVID-19 in the country.
“It was very difficult physically and also the loss of certain landmarks,” recalled Fong.
“During these months (away from the game), I always kept in shape by doing the workouts which helped me to last 90 minutes and also succeed.”
If not for the 30-year-old’s presence at the Maharlika goal, Kaya might have even enjoyed a three or four-goal victory — at least.
Fong was the source of Kaya’s frustrations. He denied the likes of Eric Ben Giganto, then Kenshiro Daniels from putting the ball at the back of the net.
The former Green Archers United stalwart’s performance earned rave reviews from Maharlika coach Roxy Dorlas, who declared that his goalie is one of the elite stoppers currently playing in the country.
“Without doubt, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the Philippines.
“We’re happy he’s with Maharlika. Even with the language barrier, he’s jelling well with the players. His performance is consistent based on what I’ve seen in his previous stints,” said the San Beda University alumnus.
For his part, Fong is thankful for his current coach’s comments. However, it’s all about giving 100 percent in every training session and match for Maharlika as it looks to make waves this season.
“It always feels good to be appreciated, and coming over from whoever trusts you. But I just do my part and help my teammates.”
With the margin of error so small in this compressed season, Maharlika needs to squeeze everything from its players to get any sort of success.
Without a doubt, though, Fong has already proven that he is one of the club’s main guys who can be the difference between victory or defeat.