This is an article I wrote for PinoyFootball.com
By LOUIE ENCABO
NEW ZEALAND –Some people are born into this world are bound for greatness.
You can tell who they are sometimes when something shows up in the manner of their birth or in their accomplishments as young men and women.
Clark Kent for example had super strength and other extraordinary powers during childhood and then grew up to be Superman.
In real life, there’s Wayne Rooney, who could do overhead bicycle kicks at age nine. He didn’t grow up to be a superhero though, but instead he plays football somewhat like a superhuman.
Thousands of miles away, a potential Super footballer awaits a glorious future.
Javier Jacutin Mariona may seem like your typical six-year old boy: he loves food; he enjoys watching extreme sports on TV (a fan of action sports star Travis Pastrana) and most common of all he’s bursting with energy like most kids his age.
But don’t be fooled, this Filipino-Salvadorian stands out from other kids his age due to his exceptional abilities. I mean, it’s not every day that you can find a six-year old who enjoys the sports: football, tennis, taekwondo, skateboarding and golf (a kid playing golf? No way!).
Sports Excellence in his Genes
Javier’s background includes two sporting greats from two different nations. His father is Rodrigo Mariona, son of El Salvador’s greatest football player, Salvador Mariona who represented his country at the 1970 FIFA World Cup. The tiny Central American nation faced the likes of the Soviet Union, Belgium and Mexico in their group.
Javier’s mom is former Philippine top ranked junior tennis player Marisue Balinado, who represented the country in tournaments abroad like the Federation Cup, World Youth Cup, Wimbledon, Canadian Open, Japan Open, SEA Games and even making it to the elimination round of the Australian Open Juniors. Her highest ITF ranking was at rank 47 for singles and rank 33 for doubles.
Definitely, greatness is in Javier’s genes. The young lad spends his abundant energy playing the sport of his father and grandfather, football. At age six, Javier plays for an Under-8 team in California.
The Mountain View/Los Altos Atomics is for ages 7-8 but young Javier was allowed to train with the team thanks to his superior talent. Javier trains for one and a half hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and another session during Saturdays. This may seem much to the ordinary six-year old, but for Javier this is not even enough playing time.
“He could do more football practice, but we don’t allow it because he needs to focus on his education first.” mom Marisue said.
Javier is definitely a talent the Azkals management staff should keep an eye on, he seems like an ideal prospect for the Arsenal scouts or Barcelona’s La Masia Academy.
Embracing his Pinoy Roots
However, growing up in a foreign country and having another country of heritage, it would be hard to expect the young boy to have the heart of a Pinoy and to be playing for the national team. People of the same predicament often end up forgetting ‘Pinas and pledging allegiance to a new homeland.
Not Javier, though.
“Javier loves sinigang, nilagang baka, adobo, pancit and he’s a big rice fan!” mom Marisue, said.
“Javier completely understands Spanish and some Visayan, but answers back in English since it is the language commonly spoken at home.”
So all hope is not lost, after all. Javier has the heart (and stomach) of a Pinoy.
There’s more good news, Pinay mom Marisue is encouraging Javier to embrace his Filipino roots even more.
“I think Javier would be honored to play for the Philippines one day. In fact, my husband Rodrigo and I are planning to relocate in the next 5 years or so. We want our kids to study and to eventually speak the language and we believe that the education system in our country is excellent. In addition, he will probably get to play on the Junior Premier League there and he can decide for himself then.”
But at age six, Javier has a long way to go before he can become an Azkal. And with all those years in front of him, it is not certain yet if he will indeed pursue the beautiful game when he grows up.
Mrs. Mariona explains, “Whatever they (Javier and sister) are motivated to do we are in to support them 100%. Both my husband and I are athletes so we know how a sport is more exciting when you are good at it. We will always be behind them to show how to master their skills and ignite their motivation; because again, only when you are good at something that you truly enjoy mastering it. Everything we do as parents builds on the foundation of compassion and love. He will play soccer as long as he’s passionate about it and give it his best.”
And in case Javier the Azkal does not become a reality, what is the alternative?
“Javier the Monster Truck Driver”, the proud mom says with a smile.
Words of Wisdom from the Mother
As I finished my final question of our interview, mom Marisue imparted some words of wisdom, “Do Filipinos need to be half this and half that to be great at something? No, we are more than capable of producing world class athletes. Filipinos are naturally talented. There are so many out there, in the streets (best Brazilian football talents are of the streets of Rio de Janeiro), etcetera that have the potential of being great but lack support and proper training.”
She added that she personally think that having international athletes come and represent our country is a blessing. “For me, we would have not enjoyed the game of football today if not for the English guys on the Azkals team. (well they are handsome guys, if I may add) We need that exposure like the Davis Cup tennis team with Fil-Am players; they are on a higher group now. Hence a sport is more recognised and take on by many especially kids.” she said.
Her words could not have been truer. Indeed, the Filipinos are gifted with the potential to succeed, to stand out among the rest. We are among those people who were born for greatness, as I mentioned earlier. However, unfortunate circumstances have stopped us from living our true potential. In the field of sports graft, favouritism and prettense hinder us from excelling. Athletes do not get the proper training they need because of the funds allotted were spent on something else.
As Mrs. Mariona pointed out, the best football players of Brazil are the ones on the streets. Not the ones playing in their leagues, not the ones playing club football in Europe but the ones in the streets. And the same could be true for the Philippines, our best football players could just be lurking around in the parks, the barrios or in the shantytowns of Tondo. These guys just need support.
Who knows how many potentially great Azkals have passed but were just not discovered because of the financial difficulties that hampered the Philippine Football Federation in the past? Who knows how many football greats are out there just waiting to be discovered? Like myself for example, I personally believe I would have grown up to be the next Ronaldo or Zidane if only my mom had enrolled me to a football school when I was young. But that’s another story.
Going back to our promising young talent, the future looks bright for Javier Mariona. And he’s lucky to have tremendous support from his parents. He looks set to fulfill his potential. And what if Javier the Azkal does not become a reality? Well, it’s a pity but there are more kids out there who possess the same ability as him and are just waiting to be discovered (or developed).
As I ended my interview with Mrs. Marisue Mariona, she had this last line to say, “If my son Javier can be an instrument to inspire other kids to take on soccer/football then so be it. It is never to young to enjoy a sport and give them opportunity to shine.” LE