HE was born without a pair of arms, but that has not stopped Mark Anthony Bergado from reaching for his dream.
Mark, 18, may have been born without both his arms, but he is blessed with a pair of quick, nimble feet that have allowed him to stand out in a sport he started playing just four years ago.
Those feet have taken him quite far. The armless wonder is now part of the official lineup of Stallion-Sta. Lucia Football Club in Division I of the premier United Football League as a member of its youth/ reserve list.
“Kahit may kapansanan ako, hindi ako nahihiya maglaro. Proud pa ako. Nakakalaro ako ng soccer,” Bergado beamed when Spin.ph chanced upon him at the Emperador Stadium after a recent win by the reigning UFL Cup champions.
The fourth of seven children of a couple from San Mateo, Rizal, Mark started playing football on the influence of older brother Marlon and immediately fell in love with the Beautiful Game.
The sport has since become Mark's one true passion, and he has devoted most of his time honing his skills in the sport after quitting school partly due to the discrimination he received from schoolmates.
The hard work is beginning to pay off.
After clinching a place in a youth team in Rizal called JG Nangka, Bergado was chosen as one of the country’s representatives to the Asia Pacific Special Games that will be held in Australia this November.
He attracted a lot of attention when his story was featured in a television program on GMA-7, and in no time became part of the Stallions' youth/reserve list.
Stallion coach Ernie Nierras, however, insists the player was not put in the lineup merely as a novelty or a charity case.
“It’s not just an outreach program. The kid has some talent so we want to see what we can do," Nierras said. "We’re always for something that’s proactive."
“He doesn’t have hands. So what? That doesn’t bother me,” he added.
Technically, Mark's inclusion in the lineup gives him the chance to play Division 1 ball, possibly against his idol Chieffy Caligdong of Green Archers United.
That is a longshot, Nierras admitted.
“Pwede (maglaro) but I’d be lying to you if I tell you he’s gonna play (now). We have to train him hard and see what happens, how far we can take this."
“You can’t just put him there as a gimmick. You have to also look at the quality, ability, and what he can bring to the team. That’s the most important thing.”
Bergado, though, said being able to wear the Stallion jersey is enough and everything else that comes after this will be a bonus.
“Masaya na ako kasi nakakasama ko sila. Malakas sila maglaro,” he said.