Friday, August 17, 2012

Street Cats: From Lapu-Lapu to Australia

This story by SWU Intern Darling Dame G. Imon appeared in Sun.Star Cebu on Aug. 17

A SMALL group of footballers from Lapu-Lapu City did what teams from richer schools can only dream of—compete abroad.

Though they lost all their matches, after competing at below zero against strong opponents from New Zealand, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, and Australia, the Streetcats felt like champions coming home.

Wala man mi naguol nga pildi mi. Nindot kayo among experience. Daghan mi nakaila, daghan mi nahibaw-an. Pero para kanamo wala may dapat ikaguol. Sa sunod namo balik mas amo na mapangandaman. Mas maayo na mi ug makadaog na mi,” said goalkeeper Jhuper Aproece, whose side conceded 27 goals in five matches.

The Pinoy Football Streetcats, or as they call themselves, the EringKalz, is a group of underprivileged footballers from Lapu-Lapu who contended in the Boys 14-Under division in the Kanga Cup last July 8-13 in Canberra, Australia.

That the team even got to compete in the Kanga Cup, one of Australia’s biggest youth football tournament, is a feat of its own.

An empty lot in Tikgahon, Lapu-Lapu City was where it all started as the boys started to play football just to kill time. In 2006, German national Manfred Schuwerk started the FC Inter Cebu, aimed to provide football opportunities for the poor youth players and having them compete against other local teams in Cebu football tournaments, and invited the boys to join the team.

Schuwerk, who was elected to the Cebu Football Association in 2008, fielded the team in the Aboitiz Cup, Thirsty Cup and the Cebu Amateur Football Club’s 10th Interclub Invitational Tournament, where they drew Queen City, 1-1.

In 2007, Sorin Clenci, an Australian football enthusiast visited the Philippines and witnessed the poor state of junior football in the country. But when he saw the team’s love for the sport, he thought of fielding the team in the Kanga Cup.

Clensi, almost singlehandedly funded the team’s trip to the Kanga Cup. With strong confidence and knowing that it will be worth the expense, he coordinated with the team liaisons and the community in making the preparations for the Streetcats trip abroad.

From the preparation of the boy’s documents --visa and passport-- to the accommodations and the plane tickets, everything had already been arranged.

All that was needed from them was to board the plane towards Canberra.

Nag-sagol among gibati. Nalipay mi nga gikuyawan,” they all said,
The team, coming from the different schools in Lapu-Lapu City, was composed of Meljohn Macababat, Aporece, Brian Chris Aldave, Kent Roger Lapina, James Joseph Escoton, Kurt Russell Urdaneta, Harvy Dungog, Casas Seferino, Xander Ochia, Jhondel Ochia, Ricky Jumaylo, Michael Tablon, and Jan Jerald Ompad.

Excited for the opportunity to go abroad, being in a new country and meeting new people, the Streetcats prepared for what was the best experience of their life.

They were accompanied by the their coach Norman Panuco and manager Juanito Novencido.

In the Kanga Cup, the team was grouped in Pool B, but they lost all their group matches to the Leichardt Lions, 4-0, Canberra FC, 6-0, and the Woden Valley Lightnight, 7-1. In the consolation matches, they lost a close game to the Football Wide Bay George cousins, 2-1, and to Oakura FC, 8-0.

The team also joined the pre-tournament run at the Melba and District Playing Fields and a a goodwill match against the Canberra FC Girls under-18 team.

‘We will be back. We just need more practice. Wala lang jud mi maanad sa kabugnaw,” said Macababat.

Conscious that this opportunity doesn’t come every day, the Streetcats are more than grateful for the opportunity given.

Now, the Streetcats are busy catching up on missed lessons in their respective schools and the experience has motivated them to do better in school, hoping that after high school, their football skills might help them get college scholarships in Cebu.

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