From Wolf to Azkal

This is an article I wrote for

NEW ZEALAND — “I want to play for the Azkals, but mom was already a German citizen when I was born”, said Denis Santos Wolf when asked if he would be interested to apply for a Philippine passport and play for the Philippine national football team.

Denis is in doubt if he could play for the Azkals as his Filipina mother, Patricia Santos has already acquired German citizenship when he was born. Thus, the experienced Filipino-German striker is unsure if he still qualifies to get a Filipino passport.

“But I’m not going to give up just yet”, he said.

Denis Santos Wolf was born in the city of Hanover, in Germany . Since the country is football-crazy, it is no surprise that at an early age Denis was already exposed to the beautiful game.

“I started playing football at age 5, for Germania Grasdorf.”, Denis tells us.


On German Youth

Dennis Wolf in street clothes.

SV Germania Grasdorf is a football development team for German youth. It was in this club that the young Denis learned the basics of the game. He rose slowly, but steadily, through the ranks of the team until such time that he was able to fulfill a dream. His hometown team, Hannover 96 scouted him when he was 15 and was signed up to join their youth team. That was the start of his rise through the ranks of German football.

“The coaches saw that my football was too mature for the youth team, so they moved me to the Hannover 96 U-23 team which plays in the Oberliga (German 4th Division), ” he said.

Denis made 20 appearances in the Oberliga, scoring seven goals. In 2003, he eventually broke into the first team of his hometown club. Wolf then became the first Filipino-blooded player to play in the Bundesliga, Germany ’s highest division at age 20.

At this time, Wolf was at the peak of his career. He would make four appearances as a Hannover 96 player, scoring a goal in the process. Then, bad luck struck.

Denis Wolf had an operation in his stomach which took him out of action for a long time. Wolf wasn’t able to see action again until the end of that season. In the summer, he scraped a few chances of training but failed to impress then-Hannover manager Ralf Rangnick. Eventually, the club decided to let him go on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the 2nd Bundesliga , Germany ’s second highest league.

Denis took a drop in terms of level of competition but he eventually found himself back on track. He made a total of 31 appearances, scoring five goals, during this loan spell period. Believing that Fortuna would climb into the Bundesliga and since he was a regular starter, Denis decided to sign a permanent deal with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

“I figured it was best for my career that time”, he explained.


More Injury Problems

Sadly, he picked up a number of injuries in his second season with the club and only played 24 games. Denis scored two goals in that season. Then, another bad luck struck as he broke his right foot. It was his worst injury and he had to undergo another operation.

The injury stalled Denis career once again just like when he got injured at his previous club, Hannover 96.

After failing to recover in time for the next season, Fortuna Dusseldorf decided to offload Denis. His next club would be in the third-tier of German football, with the club FC Rotweiss Erfurt . He would make 56 appearances for the first team, scoring 12 goals in total. But then his injuries took its’ toll on him again, and this time Denis was dropped to Erfurt ’s reserve squad. He made a further two appearances and one goal during his brief spell with the reserves. In 2009, after two years with the club, he was released on a free transfer.

If Denis had stayed fit, he would definitely be still in the Bundesliga. Playing in Germany’s highest league at the young age of 20 definitely signals potential, and Denis definitely had this.

Today, he plays for F.C. Magdeburg in the fourth tier of German football. Compared to his golden days the level of his current playing fitness is much lower. But whatever experience he obtained from playing in those leagues can not be taken away. Who knows? Maybe someday the Azkals will benefit from that experience. At six feet, two inches Denis is a striker the Azkals may want to field. And his interest to acquire Filipino citizenship gives us more hope of seeing the German Wolf transform into an Azkal in the future. LE

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