MANILA, Philippines – Many people see football as pure entertainment and fad. Some see it as a hobby or a way of spending their leisure time. Others use it to exercise and get fit.
This is not how Amani Aguinaldo and Paolo Bugas see the sport.
For the two, the Team Captain and Assistant Team Captain of the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws Junior Football Team, football is not merely a hobby or a way of getting physically fit.
More than those things, football for them is a way of life.
Both Aguinaldo and Bugas started playing football at a young age.
“Nagustuhan ko po yung football nung elementary ako. Nakita ko yung mga friends ko na naglalaro so parang na-engganyo ako sa kanila (I started liking football when I was in elementary. I saw my friends playing and I was enticed to join them),” Bugas said.
Bugas continued playing until he fell in love with the sport.
For Aguinaldo, on the other hand, football seems to run in the blood.
“I started playing when I was 5 years old. Ang unang nagpakilala sakin ng football ay yung dad ko since he was a football player din dati sa UP (My dad first introduced me to football since he was a football player back in his college days),” Aguinaldo added.
When asked why he prefers football among other sports, Aguinaldo answered, “Because football is a very dynamic sport. It’s a beautiful game. It’s the world’s number one most loved sport.”
From studying in Davao, Aguinaldo and Bugas were recruited by the Far Eastern University to join the junior football team. Both received free education and allowance because of the sport.
Going the distance
Being part of the junior football team has been a most rewarding opportunity for Aguinaldo and Bugas. Their football careers took a leap when they started competing in high school.
Aguinaldo and Bugas have been teammates for the past 4 years. They’ve competed in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines juniors’ football division for 3 years.
Together, their team bagged the championship for UAAP Season 73 and 74. They’ve also won various other competitions like the Rizal Football Association Cup.
Aguinaldo also expressed how much football had helped widen his perspective.
"Football brought me to different places around the world – in Europe and in Asia. Na-experience ko yung high level of football. Mabuti na na-experience ko na at a young age pa lang yung height na dapat kong ma-reach. Alam ko na kung ano dapat gawin ko...para maabot ko yung goals ko sa labas (I’ve experienced high level football training. It’s good that I’ve been through all of this at a young age. The path I have to take to reach my goals seems clearer),” Aguinaldo notes.
Aguinaldo had been a member of the Philippine Football Team under-13 and under-14. He recently got accepted into the Azkals under-22.
Bugas also affirmed how much football had been a blessing to him.
“Nakapag-aral ako sa mga sikat na paaralan tulad ng FEU. Malaking tulong po yung soccer sakin dahil malaking tulong na sa family ko na makapag-aral dito sa FEU na wala silang binabayaran puwera lang sa pagbibigay ng allowance sakin. (I was able to study in prominent schools like FEU. Football helps me and my family a lot since they only have to spend on my allowance)," Bugas said.
Well of inspiration
Being a football athlete in high school is a tiring career.
The team practices from 5-6 a.m. and from 4:30-6 p.m., 5 days a week. Aside from this, they also have to cope with their academic load and attend class from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Aguinaldo and Bugas said that they persevere for their families.
“My family pushes me because I want to be a professional football player to help them, since they’ve been there for me all my life, supporting me. They always have my back,” Aguinaldo said.
Bugas, on the other hand, also looks up to his football heroes.
“May inspiration po kasi ako tulad ng mga professional soccer players. Iniisip ko palagi sila at kung paano sila nagsimula. Tina-try ko talaga yung best ko na makuha ko yung mga ginagawa nila (I look up to professional football players as my inspiration. I always think of how they started and their successes. I try to do my best in order to achieve what they achieved),” said Bugas.
The two team leaders also said that their teammates inspire them to do better. Their strength as a team lies in all their members.
Being together for four years already, their team chemistry and camaraderie had been much proven and tested.
“We’ve won tournaments here...and I can say that we’re the best team in the Philippines as of now,” said Team Captain Aguinaldo.
Long term goals
Being young athletes, Aguinaldo and Bugas have high hopes on making it on the professional league.
As much as they dream to soar high in the sport, their plans are also deeply rooted in their families.
“I plan to play football professionally outside or inside the country...to support my family,” said Aguinaldo.
Even Bugas said that his end goal in the sport is to help his family. “Goal ko po na makabawi ako sa family ko at maging isang professional soccer player (My goal is to make it up to my family and to become a professional soccer player),” he said.
He also encouraged younger football aspirants to be excellent in the sport. “Ngayon na paunlad na yung football sa Pilipinas, ngayon is a very good time to try and start playing football (Since football is being given much attention in the Philippines, now is a very good time to start playing the sport),” he added.
One step closer
Aguinaldo and Bugas serve as proof that our country has a bright future in football. Their dreams reflect those of many other young athletes who want to soar high in their own sport.
In the upcoming Palarong Pambansa, Aguinaldo and Bugas will lead the NCR team as they compete with other football teams from other regions.
They will take another step closer to achieving their goals of being the best football players in the country.
Having competed in the past Palaro games during his elementary days, Aguinaldo will use his experience to guide the team members like Bugas who will be joining the competition for the first time.
The FEU Baby Tamaraws Football team is one team to keep an eye on in the upcoming Palarong Pambansa.
Other members of the NCR Football Team are Harold Alcoresa, Arnel Amita, Janryl Balanueco, Diomar Caruscay, Dave Deloso, Van Rey Diaz, Angeloue Val Jurao, Audie Menzi, Resty Monterona, Alex Rayos Jr., Chy Villaseñor, Ray Joseph Joyel and Justin Marc Calamba. – Rappler.com