Our regular football writer, Roy Moore, sent in a heartwarming story about charity and football. After winning a pair of signed Ian Araneta boots in a charity auction, one Kaholero wondered if someone else could need them more than he did. Sure enough, he found 13-year-old Stephen of Payatas FC.
Some time ago there was an auction for victims of Typhoon Sendong. The Kaholeros organized it via Facebook and raised PhP200,000 in a short amount of time.
One item up for auction was a pair of signed Ian Araneta boots. The Air Force striker had kindly donated this and given at the time I needed a pair for myself – I still harbor hopes of playing in the UFL as despite studying at UP Diliman as a foreigner I can’t join the team for the UAAP until after two years of residency – I placed a bid.
In the end I was outbid by Jady Salonga, a Kaholero. What I didn’t know at the time Jady and I were bidding against each other was that he was looking to donate them to a deserving youngster – who turned out to be one of the kids I coach.
Like many of the Kaholeros, Jady isn’t just passionate about football but extends that spirit and unity to helping others. At first, being an Azkals fan, he was also looking for a potential bargain when the auction had just started. He said later on though that “when I saw how huge the devastation caused by Sendong [was], I said to myself that even if I would have something from the players, my goal was for my personal gain and defeats the purpose [of] why I bid.”
Jady thought about how he could help others through this and said “With that, I said to myself that if I am going to win an item, I would re-donate it so that it could be of further use. So when I found out that I won Ian Araneta’s boots, it was the first thing in my mind to give it.”
After the auction Jady explained this to me and Stephen came to mind as a deserving candidate for the footwear.
Stephen has had a difficult life in his thirteen years. He only began playing football last February but is already an accomplished defender and was one of the reasons why Payatas FC, the team I coach as part of the Fairplay for All Foundation (FFA), has reached four semifinals in four of our six tournaments. He’s also got big feet so the boots fit him perfectly.
When Stephen was asked why he liked to play football he said that “I like to play football because I like to get to know the Azkals. In the future I’d like to be an Azkal. I enjoy tournaments because it helps me improve.”
In his first game Stephen scored the first-ever goal for Payatas FC, picking up the ball from well outside the area and smashing into right into the top corner – it was Payatas’ first goal and it was also Payatas’ Goal of the Year.
Stephen isn't just improving in just sports alone. Since starting to play football, his grades have improved too. Previously a below average student, Stephen achieved an average grade of 85% in his final year of elementary school – partly due to the incentive of only being allowed to play football if his school work is finished.
So Stephen, for trying so hard, for being so enthusiastic, and for improving in other areas of his life too, was chosen as the recipient for Jady’s kind gift. The following week at training Stephen’s smile was a bit bigger than usual as he talked of proud he was of his new football boots.
Helping the next generation
For a country to succeed in any sport, not just football, finding and the developing the next generation of stars is a must. A deep grassroots program is needed to find young talent, and one competition which is looking to do that, with an added goal too, is the Street Child World Cup. Given Stephen’s background he’s now on their radar.
As for Jady, well he completed his goal for the year, which is in his words, “to touch someone’s life, by a simple deed or not.
“I also believe that the generation after us could be catalysts of change, and we do not have to wait until it’s their turn. While we are in position to help and mold the younger generation, do so.”
Football has truly reached the Philippines and Jady describes the gift as a symbolic gesture of passing down the legacy of Philippine football: “So me buying the boots from Ian and giving it to Stephen was more of a symbolic gesture that the passion for football in our country is slowly being passed from one generation to another… Perhaps it’s something that I learned from [my] lolo, when it is for the good of a sport, you don’t just build a player, you build a community, and then, you build lives.”
This is one of the great aspects of football – it levels the playing field and allows anyone to succeed regardless of who their parents are, what their background is, or how much money they have. So next time you see a child, with torn clothes, dirty from scavenging through garbage for anything that could be of value, remember that they have worth as a person and not just in what they can scavenge. They may also have the skill to represent the country in the future too.