Homegrown booters in the national team-A A +A
Friday, June 29, 2012
ONLY a few are privileged to be part of the Philippine football team as it takes a long, rigorous process to get in. Thus, the fact that there are Dabawenyos in the national team is definitely something to be proud of.
Meet Darius Joseph Diamante and Javier Romero-Salas, members of the U14 Boys Philippine Football Team.
Darius, who is often called Jed by his friends and family, was born on January 11, 1998, while Javier or Javi was born on January 14, 1998.
Both of them started playing football when they were in level 2 kindergarten at the Ateneo de Davao University (Addu). Growing up, Jed was inspired by his brothers Gio and Gelo who were also perennial stars in their school's football varsity team.
Javi, meanwhile, saw his brother Enrique as his inspiration as the latter also earned a slot in the football varsity team and was considerably among the key players in the squad.
Jed and Javi were already teammates since their early years and they continued to practice football together. As they gradually sharpened their skills, they tested their abilities in football by joining various football tournaments in the city.
Their first few stints were not very impressive as they only wound up with the runner-up honors. But in the next few tournaments, they started to sweep titles in local bootfests. Winning titles in tournaments across Mindanao became a constant so they tested their mettle in the national scope. They didn’t shine there.
Despite the lackluster debut in the nationals, the duo earned slots to the varsity team of Addu when they were in Grade 2.
They were exposed to the playing styles of other booters as they annually participated in the Davao City Athletic Association (DCAA) Meet and went on to participate in the Davao Region Athletic Association (Davraa) Meet.
Jed was the first to play in the Palarong Pambansa 2008 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Jed had a dreary outing in his first Palaro as the team was not able to make it to the quarterfinals. The following year, Javi joined the Davao Region team for the Palaro in Tacloban City in 2009. But his addition barely became a factor as they still were ousted early in the tournament.
They are yet to win gold in the Palaro as they continued to struggle in their recent outings.
"Ang dami talaga naming natutunan sa Palaro na nagpush sa amin para maging mas magaling. Iba lang talaga ang competition outside of Mindanao so kailangan talaga naming magpursige," said Jed in Filipino.
Recently, the tandem had their first crack on becoming part of the national team as they became standouts in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Festival of Football held recently at the Deca Homes Resort and Residences.
They went on to be selected in the training pool for the national team and flew to Cebu. From there, the kids went through a very tough training.
Jed said, "It was really among the toughest camps we've been through," while Javi said, "I literally vomited during the endurance training where we had to cover 800 meters in just a minute and twenty seconds."
After a month of training, they finally earned the slot to the national team and they then underwent training in Italy for 21 days in preparation for the Asian Football Confederation U14 tournament in Malaysia.
"The weather was really cold and we had a difficult time adjusting," said Jed, while Javi said they also were on a strict diet so they really lost a lot of weight.
Despite the tough conditions they went through, among the valuable lessons that they learned were mental toughness, perseverance and improved football skills.
During the tournament in Malaysia, they were able to cap off upsets against perennial powerhouses in South East Asia. But despite stunning the heavily favored teams they still wound up in the bottom part of the standings.
But they gained ample recognition in the South East Asian football scene after an impressive outing in the Japan-East Asean Football Exchange Programme U-14 Youth Football Festival in Osaka with a third place finish.
The duo was dubbed as the "Davao Connection" during the bootfest as both had a good chemistry in the field and both shared goals to lift the Philippine team.
"From there, we learned that our passion for football pushed us to play on a higher level. We also realized our talents and we are also thankful that a lot of coaches had seen our potential as well. So we did our best to prove that our country is something," said Jed.
At present, Jed and Javi still form part of the Philippine team. They are hopeful that they will still be part of the team in time for the 2013 U17 boys World Cup Qualifiers and on to the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers.
"We just need to do our best in everything we do in the field so that we will still be part of the team," said Javi.
When asked about their message to the aspiring booters who would like to be part of the national team, Javi said, "You should always be industrious because if you are lazy, you will be going nowhere."
Jed, meanwhile, said: "Always remember that what you are doing is not for your own interest rather it is for your family, country and your God."
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 30, 2012.