Timbers 2 defender Niko De Vera recently returned from his first senior international call-up by The Philippines, in which the nation played against China in a combined Asian Cup Qualifier and World Cup Qualifier. De Vera has been working his way back from a preseason Achilies injury all season long and was rewarded with the call-up. We caught up with Niko about his international experience.
You received your first international call-up with this Fall, being called into camp with The Philippines. How would you describe the experience? Was it different from day-to-day life on the club side?
It was an exciting and new experience. It almost felt like being a freshman again at Akron. The country over there has so much support for the sport. It felt like a reward everyday but also something to keep working towards. Getting on the bus to leave for training or even during trainings, there were fans, newspapers and paparazzi all around asking for pictures and interviews. It’s a nice feeling when you go to another country and fans there are calling you by your first and last name, welcoming you to their country and wishing you the best. For the nines days I was there, it was pretty much the same as an away trip for any club. Team breakfast, team meeting, team meal, training, and team dinner. The only difference would be being in another country.
Who was the first person you reached out to when you learned of your call-up?
The first two people I talked about the call up with was my Dad and my agent. I actually didn’t even tell my family about it until two days before I left for camp. I like to surprise them with things like this.
What were the biggest things you learned from your call-up experience in getting to work with the coaches and players on The Philippines team?
Each camp is different with a handful of new players each time, but there’s a core group that holds the team standards and beliefs together, and you can tell who those players are from Day 1. Neil Etheridge our goalie, is the starting goalie for Cardiff City. Our captain Stephan Schrock played in the Bundesliga and has years of experience. Every coach and player has a strong belief in the system and a standard they want to team to be at.
Has your call-up motivated you even more in your return from injury?
Yes, definitely. When players get a year-long injury it can be a big mental struggle as well, making a come back. But getting called into camp and not having played a minute this year, it’s a big confidence boost and motivates me to come back even stronger to prove myself to not only the club but also to the national team. They called me into camp knowing I was injured, but that showed they believe in me so I want to prove them right.