MANILA, Philippines – We’ve gotten used to our field. Sure, it lacks space, the terrain’s unleveled, the trees haven’t been cleared out, and the fencing around the pitch isn’t high enough. (The ball goes over the fence quite a lot.) It isn’t even full grass and the rest was covered in gravel, which tends to enter your shoes. After playing for a while it becomes really impossible to get it out of any pair of footwear. The goals are also quite small. We sometimes complain that we need a new field but we know we won’t get one anytime soon.
The ironic part is that we’ve learned to love the field for what it is. After all, we’ve encountered fields even more barren and scarred so that the ground on them is barely recognizable. But honestly, we wouldn’t love our field if we didn’t love the game itself. Really, who would?
The experiences I’ve had on the field, I’ve loved having them all. I play football whenever I have breaks between school hours, or after school when I’m not playing some other sport. I play with a few friends and we just take shots and work on whatever skills we want to work on. No matter what, I’ve found it comforting to just kick the ball around with one or two of my friends and always look forward to playing football at the end of a tough day.
My dad loved the sport with all his heart. He loved playing it, watching it and just being involved with it. He played a defender and I have taken a similar approach to the game. He played sweeper and I play keeper.
Looking at the jerseys he owned, I knew he loved the national team of Argentina, England and Brazil. His favorite club was Real Madrid and his favorite player from the club was Xabi Alonso. He also hoped that the Philippine National Team would someday get better.
For myself, apart from those teams, I also like other clubs such as Fulham (the English Club Neil Etheridge plays for) and the world-class Manchester United. Among the national teams, I like Italy, Uruguay, Russia, Japan and South Korea.
Like my dad would’ve been, I’m glad and excited that the Philippine team has progressed and gotten widespread attention. They will surely only get better in the future with all the new Filipino players being discovered worldwide, such as the Younghusbands. When they beat Mongolia I was ecstatic and was happy when I was able to meet Philippine defender Del Rosario. Too bad I wasn’t able to catch the game in Bacolod.
My dad and my uncle Roman went to Sweden and competed for the Gothia Cup when they were 16. Like them, I’d love to play for the Philippine team one day or to train in another country. I’m still 14 so I’ve got a few years to go.
It really disappointed my dad that I didn’t have this much enthusiasm about the sport before. I stopped for a whole year since I lost the soul to continue playing. There was a real downfall in my form and it looked like it wouldn’t get any better. He’d surely be happy to see how much I’ve since made up for that lost time.
I don’t like to think about his death but it’s quite hard not to every time I use his football gear, every time I talk to my uncle and his best friend about the game, every time I play video games about the game, every time I read about the game and every time I’m in the game. A lot of my important games I play for my dad: every save I make or — if I’m out of the goal — every intercept, assist or even goal I make is for him. I just hope I make him proud.
It took a death of a loved one to light a fire in my heart and get me playing once again. If it takes another death for another intervention, I think I’d pass since I’m fine finding my own way from now on with only a little help on the journey.
I do miss my dad. He’d probably tell me to focus on the game and put in the best effort I can. Like a 90-minute game of football, life must continue and you need to put what was done right, what was done wrong aside and continue to play. All the minutes count and the clock is ticking down so you have to make the best of it.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Philstar.com’s Young Star