In the heart of Cebu, two young soccer enthusiasts from Cebu United Football Club are making waves not only in their local community but also on a national and international stage.
Meet Raikko Zion Mendoza, a nine-year-old dynamo who excels both as a forward or defender in Cebu and dons the gloves as a goalkeeper when he competes in Manila and his older brother Ronito Mendoza, a 14-year-old midfielder inspired by the great Luka Modric. Together, these brothers are not just chasing a ball; they are chasing their dreams, facing challenges head-on, and building friendships that transcend boundaries.
Raikko’s versatile play
Raikko, with his infectious energy and a passion for the game, showcases his versatility on the soccer field. When in Cebu, he is a formidable force as a forward or defender, demonstrating his agility and skill. However, when the competitions take him to Manila, Raikko transforms into a confident goalkeeper, guarding the net with determination. Recently, he took his skills to an international level, competing in the SingaCup 2023 held in Singapore on Nov. 4 to 11, 2023, where he faced off against teams from Malaysia, India and Indonesia, showcasing his talent on a global stage.
Ronito’s midfield magic
On the other side of the field, Ronito, at 14, is carving his path as a skilled midfielder, drawing inspiration from the maestro Luka Modric. His recent accolades as the Best Midfielder in the Under 15 and Under 17 categories at the 13th Bast Football Festival shows his prowess on the field. Ronito’s love for the game goes beyond victories; it’s about the camaraderie and friendships forged on the field.
Ronito’s philosophy revolves around sportsmanship.
“Playing soccer is also a form of communicating,” he shared. Through the game, he gets to know opponents and teammates alike, building connections that extend beyond the soccer pitch. For Ronito, soccer is not just a sport; it’s a language that transcends verbal communication.
Challenges beyond the goalposts
Playing in tournaments outside of Cebu City brings its own set of challenges for the Mendoza brothers. Raikko faces the hurdle of linguistic diversity, adjusting his communication to connect with players from different regions. For Ronito, the challenges extend to the financial and time-management aspects.
The financial strain of participating in tournaments, where self-funding is often the reality, is a hurdle the brothers face with resilience. Ronito, balancing soccer and academics, acknowledges the struggle of managing his time, especially when fatigue from practices clashes with school schedules.
Despite the challenges, the Mendoza brothers press on, driven by their love for the game and the unwavering support of each other and their family.
The Mendoza brothers, representing the spirit of Cebu United Football Club, are not just aspiring soccer players; they are ambassadors of friendship, adaptability and determination. Through victories and defeats, on local fields and distant turfs, they carry the spirit of soccer, breaking barriers and forming connections that echo the universal language of the beautiful game.
As Raikko and Ronito continue their soccer journey with Cebu United, they embody the essence of what makes sports truly special—the ability to transcend boundaries, create lasting friendships, and inspire others to follow their dreams, no matter where they may lead.