YOU'LL readily notice him at the stands during local football games - the exuberant kid who occasionally gets to hold the megaphone to lead a group of grown men cheering rabidly for their favorite teams.
For the next three weeks and surely beyond, he’ll get the chance to experience what it’s like to be at the receiving end of the cheers.
Shane Clemente is among the 22 kids chosen from over 22,000 aspirants all over the country after a rigorous selection process for the Kasibulan grassroots program of the Philippine Football Federation.
Clemente and the other lucky kids make up the Philippine Under-11 boys’ football team, which will undergo an education and sports training program in the United Kingdom, sponsored by the British Council.
“Masaya po at sobrang nakaka-excite kasi ngayon lang ako makakapunta sa London at sa labas ng bansa,” Clemente said on Friday night during the team’s send-off dinner at the Peninsula Hotel in Makati.
It’s hard to miss Clemente during Azkals and United Football League matches, as he’s a member of the Kaholeros and Ultras Kaya, both the official booster squads of the national football teams and Kaya FC, respectively.
The 10-year-old Grade 5 student from Malabon said he was influenced to play football by his older brother, Jerome, who's also a member of Ultras Kaya.
The younger Clemente has already showcased his talent in the UFL Youth League where he played in the U-11 division for Kaya and scored four goals in five games.
“Shane is small, but really a tough player, very good yung technique, skill, then makikita mo sa kanya yung football knowledge agad,” U-11 coach Aeyh Fabroada said, comparing Clemente’s playing style to those of two diminutive dynamos in former Air Force mainstays Chieffy Caligdong and Yanti Barsales.
Now, he gets to play abroad against a handful of counterparts from the UK and get the chance to watch an English Premier League game and a World Cup qualifying match between England and Moldova at the Wembley Stadium.
Fabroada, though, doesn’t want to put the spotlight solely on Clemente, who plays striker and lists David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as his idols.
“All of them really have the potential,” the 26-year-old mentor said of his team, which went straight to the airport after the sendoff.
Aside from Clemente, also in the team are Mark Alanquihan (Dipolog), Mark Amaikurut (Davao), Josh Asignar (Cebu), Yuan Rena (Cebu), Tristan Enad (Cebu), Charles Unabia (Cebu) Chevey Celeste (San Carlos City, Nefros Occ.), Shemrei Marobillo (San Carlos City, Negros Occ.), Joi Gaid Jr. (Cagayan de Oro), Greg Naquines (Cagayan de Oro), John Karl Solomo (Iloilo), Jill Pillora (Iloilo), Agiel John Rojo (South Cotobato), Drexler Valencia (Negros Oriental), Ildefonso Escobin (Laguna), Robert Orr (NCR), Michael Osorio (NCR), Jacob Padernal (NCR), Nikko Guitierrez (NCR), Nicolei San Jose Abalos (Laguna), and Vin Joel Dela Cruz (NCR).
The team, whose long-term goal is to qualify for the Fifa U-17 World Cup in 2019, is also fortunate to have a generous sponsor in the British Council.
“The British Council was looking for ways to bridge the gap between the UK and the Philippines and here we are, the PFF ready with the package,” PFF communications head Ebong Joson said. “It’s really a beautiful marriage of like-minded organizations.”
“They’re shouldering everything,” Joson added. “We are very honest that we don’t have the resources yet to fly them out to UK.”
According to Joson, the partnership started about a year ago when officials of the British Council, the official cultural organization of the UK where football is a religion, got in touch with the Philippine Sports Commission, which then referred it to the PFF.
“This project is a very good fit with the British Council’s mission, which is to build trust between people from different countries,” British Council country director Nick Thomas said. “Sports is an important part of what we do.”