The foundation of any strong national team or athlete — regardless of the sport — relies on the effectiveness of a country’s grassroots program. In the case of the Philippine National Men’s Football Team, an injection of youth is necessary for the squad to sustain its successful exploits in regional and continental competitions.
One such player who hopes to make the cut in the future is Lance Ocampo. Alongside his coach Darren Hartmann, Ocampo shed light on his development as a player to journalist Cedelf Tupas in the July 4 episode of the Tiebreaker Vods’ Crossover Podcast, presented by SMART and supported by LGR.
“I remember going to my first training session (in August 2010) wearing my basketball shoes and basketball jerseys. My first club was in Army, Army Football Club. I’ve been very fortunate to be coached by former Azkal players, national team players like coach Roel Gener,” recalled the 18-year-old.
“So since my first year playing football I’ve been very lucky that they are my coaches.”
From that point onwards, Ocampo’s passion for the sport grew into what it is today. Interestingly, he never really saw football as a competitive sport during the start of his career but as a means of meeting up with close companions.
“That time I wasn’t really looking into football that much, all I wanted to do was go to training and play because it’s fun, you see your friends… I didn’t really have friends in my neighborhood so most of my friends are my football teammates,” said the young midfielder.
Just like all journeys, humble beginnings become the starting points for any person’s big break. In the case of Ocampo, his active participation in Hartmann’s GOM Pro Skills Program allowed the latter to refer him to Azkals team manager Dan Palami for inclusion in the Azkals Development Team.
“At the age of fifteen, he can already run thirty meters in sub-four seconds, which is really fast. When I sent Lance’s time to Dan Palami, he actually questioned me and asked if it was true,” explained the former national team player.
“Then after Lance trained and Dan saw it, Dan messaged me and said, ‘Darren! Yeah you’re right, he really is that quick!’ The ADT asked for a skillful and quick player and that’s hopefully what we managed to get to them.”
By virtue of being part of that program, Ocampo is already one step into the senior national team set-up. However, he still has lots to prove before he can get that unforgettable first cap with the Azkals.
“It was a very new environment. It was very new to me.
“Players were a lot stronger, quicker, hitting faster so probably the hardest one week of football I’ve been so far because obviously I’m trying to prove myself, I’m trying to give my best every single drill, every single game so that week I was very tired that week,” he narrated about his first week of training with the ADT.
Ultimately, only time will tell whether Ocampo can make the grade at the senior level or not. Nevertheless, the prodigy is on the right track and all the opportunities are there for him to take advantage of.