Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Know your Azkals: Not just another Greatwich

If his surname wasn’t Greatwich, he probably wouldn’t be pressured to be a great footballer. 

Twenty-two-year-old Simon Clive is the youngest of the Greatwich brothers. His elder siblings Chris and Phil, 27 and 24 respectively, are also football players. 

Growing up in the coastal city of Brighton in southeast England, Simon has always been surrounded by the sport — what with the Premier League happening almost whole year round, and David Beckham living just a few hours away. It’s the perfect ground for breeding professional football players. 

“Football is really famous [in England]. The people are fanatic. It’s a huge thing, much like basketball here in the Philippines," he says. 

At an age kids have just gotten out of their diapers, Simon was already learning the basics of football. His first mentor was his dad, and his first football was, well, a tennis ball. 

“We’d just bring tennis balls to school and try to play football with it. But it was just all for fun," he recalls. 

He eventually got signed by professional club Brighton and Hove Albion FC when he was nine. At 14, he was invited to try out for England’s U-15 squad. Also competing for slots were players from big-shot clubs Manchester United and Arsenal, most of whom were older than him. Although he didn’t actually make it to the 16-man team, it did seal his ambition of becoming a professional footballer.

“Magkano sa Legaspi Towers sa Roxas Boulevard?"

Simon’s mother hails from Davao. She flew to London and worked as a cafeteria lady in Great Ormond Street Hospital. That’s where she met her husband, then a porter in the same institution. The irony though is that Simon’s never really been in touch with his Filipino side. And you can forget about speaking in Filipino. The only Tagalog sentence he knows by heart is “Magkano sa Legaspi Towers sa Roxas Boulevard?"

“My mom didn’t really teach us Tagalog, growing up. I can pick up the key words in a sentence, and I try to understand the meaning. She probably regrets it now because she never really thought we’d end up here in Manila," he says.

Although he’s only known England and New York where he currently studies, he didn’t hesitate to play for the Philippines. After all, his elder brother Chris has already taken the lead and suited up for the Azkals.

Not everyone though is happy with the influx of Fil-foreigners among the Azkals. Simon says this is a misinterpretation as the 30-man team isn’t dominated by "halfies." The core is still homegrown, and the handful who came from other countries are really outstanding players.

“Some of the Fil-foreigners play in international clubs. They’re really good and they are assets to the team. In five years, with a mix of imports and locals, we can beat top Asian countries. We almost beat Indonesia in the Suzuki Cup, and that’s just the beginning," he says.

Simon considers their match in Maldives as his most memorable game so far, with 20,000 fans flocking to the compact stadium.

“The noise was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other. But when we scored a goal, we silenced the crowd," he recalls. “That’s only 20,000 people. In the Suzuki Cup, there were about 90,000 fans watching. I hope I can play in something like that soon."

Simon is suiting up for the AFC Challenge Cup against Mongolia this February. His stint in the Southeast Asian Games U-23 tournament is still in the air, though. The SEAG will be held in November, and by that time he would've already turned 23.

With all the popularity he’s enjoying now, he’s been offered TV commercials and photoshoots. However, his main focus is still the Azkals, and if showbiz gets in the way of football, he’s not buying it.

It may have started as simply following his brothers’ footsteps. But he has very well made his name known not just as another Greatwich, but as Simon Greatwich – full-fledged midfielder for the Philippine Azkals.

And to think it all started with a tennis ball. - KY/OMG, GMANews.TV

credits to GMANews.tv


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