YOUNG as he is, Paref Springdale’s Ethan Jacob Roxas knows what he wants to do—to play football in Europe. The young footballer from Cebu is one of the country’s best in his age group, thanks to his hard work, dedication and work ethic.
“Anybody can be a great player at any age,” said Roxas, who has 36 tournaments under his belt and was a member of the first batch of Filipinos in the Road to Barcelona training camp.
Roxas got into the sport when it was introduced to him by his brother, Luis Gabriel Roxas, who also plays football for the school.
Roxas said that at first, he only did it because he found it fun and he wanted to follow his brother. However, he fell in love with the sport and has been playing for eight years now.
The 12-year old has already set his dreams of becoming a European football player and be like Neymar, the former Barcelona midfielder who transferred to Paris Saint-Germaine (PSG).
At seven, Roxas became a champion when he joined the Bro. Rettore Football Festival, playing for Dynamo FC’s Under 9 squad. Since he started lacing his spikes, the gifted player has regularly play in an older age group.
He also joined the Milo Little Olympics in 2014, the San Roque Football Festival wherein their team placed first runner-up, and in the SunStar Cup 2014, when they reached the semifinals of the Under 9 division.
It was also in the same year when Roxas made the cut in the Road to Barcelona and trained at the fabled Camp Nou.
Last 2018, Roxas was picked by Don Bosco Technological Center (DBTC) to beef up the Cebu City team in the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (Cviraa) meet in Bohol, where they won the Elementary title. Just last month in Dumaguete City, he also helped Cebu City defend its Cviraa title to book another stint in the Palarong Pambansa.
Among the international events he has joined, Roxas said the most unforgettable one is the Football and Friendship Cup 2017 in Kellang, Singapore. The organizers were so impressed with Roxas’ showing that they gave him the Most Valuable Player Award even if his team finished second.
In that tournament, Roxas had one of his best showing against Bermuda Indonesia. Trailing by two, Roxas danced around four defenders to make it 2-1 then scored on a breakaway for the equalizer to send the game to a shootout, which they won.
That performance came a day after he scored five goals.
Roxas said that for him, his best skill is dribbling and he attributed it as one of the factors why their team got the runner-up trophy. However, he said it wasn’t just him and that the credit should go to the team.
“The main part of my MVP award is the teamwork,” said Roxas.
Roxas also credits his very first coach—Josaphat Sacil—in playing a big role in his career.
Like Roxas, Sacil also had a storied youth career and was the first Cebuano to train at the famed Theater of Dreams—Manchester United’s Old Trafford—as part of his prize for winning the MVP trophy in a 12-Under tournament.
“He (Sacil) really motivated me when I didn’t want to practice. He made sure that I would improve because he saw my potential and I thanked him because he never gave up in training me,” said Roxas.
Mario Ceniza, Paref-Springdale’s coach, said that he will not be surprised if years from now, he will see Roxas playing in the professional level in international games.
“Nakita na gyud namo nga he is so dedicated in practice. He is motivated also, and he’s got that winning mentality,” said Ceniza, who in his prime was a headache for defenders with his dribbling skills.
Ceniza, who has been coaching Roxas for five years, said his ward is not just a good player but also has good work ethics.
Ceniza said that even at times when they do not have practice, Roxas would go to the field and practice the moves from the videos he saw.
“Mahibong mi kay wa mi gatudlo, but he’s doing it,” said Ceniza.
He also said that Roxas is very attentive, as well as a very imposing leader since he has been the team captain of Paref Springdale for already five years now.
Roxas has also shared that football, indeed, really changed his life. “It changed the way I act. It helped me learn respect, and it helped me to work in a team,” said Roxas, who is also a consistent honor student.
Aside from football, Roxas is also inclined to playing table tennis, but whenever he has rare free time, he spends it for his study or to catch up on sleep.
“My mindset after academics is either sleeping or football,” Roxas said, laughing.
Roxas has been training a lot these days since he is part of the team which will be going to the Palarong Pambasa in April in Davao City.
And as proof of a great work ethic, aside from his regular training with DBTC, he also has a personal training regimen to improve his strength and conditioning.