With the persistent growth of the Philippines Football League (PFL) and the annual football tourney that is Copa Paulino Alcantara, the interest of international clubs in homegrown Filipino football players has reached new heights. This is one of the goals of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), which aims to develop local talent and to feature their skills through media coverage. Just this past October, this exposure was emphasized after the Under-23 Philippine Azkals made their first appearance in the Asian Cup Qualifiers, with over half of the team composed of homegrown talent.
As Filipino football continues to grow, its recognition in the international scene was founded upon a special generation of players. Veteran goalkeeper Patrick Deyto was at the forefront of this development, experiencing every level of competitive football from his days as a Green Archer to being a professional athlete currently. Playing for Suphanburi F.C. in Thailand, Deyto shares what it means to be a homegrown talent playing professionally abroad.
Blazing a trail
Deyto says he fell in love with football during his elementary days, which eventually led him to join the varsity team of De La Salle Santiago Zobel School. Speaking highly of his former coach and current Green Booters coach Hans Smit, he cites that the main lesson he learned from Smit was developing discipline at a young age. “High school was my first time playing under him and the one thing that’s famous about him is his tough love; the purpose of all of that is to discipline [our] attitude, which I think is very important,” he explains.
In DLSU, Deyto maximized his five playing years. His stint as a Green Booter eventually became his stepping stone to play simultaneously for DLSU’s semi-professional affiliate team, Green Archers United, and the Azkals. He went on to join a multitude of clubs, subsequently bridging his way to Suphanburi F.C. where he shines as their starting goalkeeper.
With his roots as a homegrown Filipino football player competing professionally abroad, Deyto carries this extra epithet. There is only a handful who holds this status, and Deyto remarks, “I’m happy that I’m able to somehow show the players back home that it’s possible [to play abroad] even if you were born and raised in the Philippines.”
Touching on the prestige that comes with his job, he expresses, “I don’t actually see any pressure or anything because for me, everybody will have their own journey and it’s really just for me. It just makes me feel proud that I’m able to do it.”
On foreign soil
After a decade into his professional career, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Deyto. Despite excelling locally, he initially doubted himself upon arriving in Thailand, questioning if he could compete at the level of Thailand’s professional league. He shares, “At first, I felt some pressure from myself because when I first got here, I didn’t know if I was good enough to play.”
Playing in an unfamiliar territory, the stopper had to make changes in his training regime and lifestyle off the pitch. He comments, “Given that the level here is higher, I had to take care of my body a little bit better. I had to watch what I [ate]. I also did a little bit more extra work, because I knew that I needed to be a bit stronger, a bit faster.” He stresses that if one wants to “make it very far” in their career, there has to be discipline. “You have to sacrifice if you want to be successful in your career,” he furthers.
Because of his training regimen, the former Green-and-White goalkeeper reaped the fruits of his labor, and it was not long until he found himself to be a fan favorite of the Suphanburi F.C. crowd. Talking about his rise to international stardom, Deyto confesses that his journey would “end up here,” “I was [happy] playing professionally in the Philippines. Fortunately, some circumstances pushed me to explore my options abroad.” Seeing where he is now, the Lasallian goalkeeper says that thriving in the international scene is something that he is really “proud of, and really grateful [for].”
To the nation and the youth
In the meantime, Deyto hopes to continue playing in Thailand but plans to return professionally to the PFL. “I really miss playing in the Philippines,” he proclaims.
Outside of football, he discloses that he wants to eventually explore the field of sports psychology. He quotes, “This is something that I’ve really taken interest in just recently. This [field] is now what I see myself [maybe] doing after my career.”
Relaying a message for the youth, the former La Salle skipper advises, “Stay resilient. There [are] so many challenges that will come in your career that will make you want to quit. But if you know what you truly want, then you will be able to work your way around those things.”