Last December 28, Marco Casambre, a left back for local football club and Copa Paulino Alcantara champ Kaya FC Iloilo, received a call from an agent who told him that a team in Thailand was interested in signing him up for the rest of the second half of the season.
The agent also revealed that someone who knows Casambre was the one who asked the agent to bring the player back to Thailand.
Two days later, a deal was made for him to suit up for Sukhotai FC, a team currently sitting in second place in the Thai League 2. And guess what? It is being helmed by Dennis Amato, Casambre’s German coach when he played for Chainat FC in 2019.
Last Wednesday at around 3 p.m., Casambre has arrived in Sukhotai province, the first Kingdom of Thailand and which is currently sitting in second place in the Thai League 2 or second division. Sukhotai, Casambre noted, is at least a five-hour drive away from Bangkok.
Casambre is not only reunited with Amato, he will also get to play once more with Pin or Parinya Utapao, Pornthep Chankai and Kittipun Saensuk, his former teammates in Chainat and are now with Sukhotai FC. Incidentally, Pin is the skipper in Chainat when Casambre initially played in Thailand.
“May mini-Chainat reunion po kami dito,” Casambre shared.
Casambre will play for the duration of the second leg of the Thai football season and hopefully help Sukhotai get promoted to the Thai League 1 or the top football division in the country.
While there are several Filipino footballers seeing action the top division such as Manny Ott, Dylan de Bruycker, Daisuke Sato, Patrick Deyto, Amani Aguinaldo and many more, Casambre is the lone Filipino playing in League 2 right now.
“Actually, masaya ako makabalik. Medyo kinakabahan ulit kasi bagong lugar, bagang team. Excited din ako,” Casambre said.
Compared to his stay in Chainat, Casambre said he will be taking home a smaller pay in Sukhotai but definitely bigger than what he is getting at Kaya FC. He, however, is not affected by this. “First of all ‘yung experience. ‘Yun talaga ang habol ko rito. Sa Pilipinas kasi, hindi ko pa alam kung kelan ulit ang liga (dahil sa pandemic) pero dito organized na sila. May certainty na maglalaro, actually, naglalaro na nga sila. Overall, ‘yung experience talaga ang for me,” Casambe explained.
Casambre also relishes the opportunity to get better and improve further his skills. “Sa PFL (Philippines Football League) ‘yung nakakalaban mo paulit-ulit lang. Paulit ulit lang ang tactics. ‘Yung style of play. Dito mas maraming teams, mas maraming variation of tactics. Maganda na maexperience ang iba’t-ibang styles of play,” Casambre said.
Even his parents agreed and supported his decision to return to Thailand. “Sabi nila baka hindi na bumalik ang opportunity na ‘yan,” he added.
Casambre started playing competitive football when he was barely 16 for the UP Diliman Football Team and for Global FC in the United Football league in 2015.
“Sana nga matuloy na (domestic league). Sabi nila maaga magsisimula ang magumpisa soon ang liga,” he quipped.
He is also hoping that he will have another opportunity to play for the national team, the Philippine Azkals.
“Gustung-gusto ko naman po ‘yun…Makabalik sa Azkals. Kung ma-call up, ‘di ma-call up, ready naman po ako. Masarap kasi maglaro para sa bansa,” he said.
Aside from football, Casambre is also trying to finish his BS Sports Science degree at UP. “Online classes po ngayon sa UP kaya nag-enroll ako,” he added.
He is also looking forward to facing his old Chainat team before the month ends.
“If ever makakalaban ko sila sa January 29, if makakalaro ako,” Casambre said.
For the meantime, however, there is one immediate concern Casambre needs to address now that he is in Sukhotai.
“Adulting. Hindi kasi ako marunong magluto eh. Tapos takot pa ako lumabas. So ewan ko kung ano gagawin ko. YouTube YouTube na lang siguro,” he said in jest.
Speaking of another Filipino athlete based overseas, Pinay tennis sensation Alex Eala is looking forward to three professional events in Manacor, Mallorca in Spain this month until February. There are three W25 events in Manacor. The first one will start on January 17 to January 23 and the second one will be from January 24 up to January 30, 2022. The third event will run from January 31 to February 6, 2022.
It was in Manacor where Eala won her maiden women’s professional title late January last year.
The Filipina ace is currently ranked 527th in singles and 785th in doubles of the Women’s Tennis Asso (WTA). She is 8th in the ITF Junior Ranking released last week.
“My goal for this year is to improve the level of my tennis as much as possible in order to achieve a high professional ranking,” Alex said through a text message.
Just like many players, Eala also had to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine restrictions have limited her play last year. She is hoping that things will get better this year.
“The pandemic in general brought many obstacles not just to me but to all athletes. I feel that all these restrictions have helped me mature on and off the court and not to take the opportunities I have for granted,” she added.
Eala, a long-time Globe ambassador, is aiming to get more points in the Manacor events to jumpstart here 2022 campaign. More points mean more opportunities for Eala to play in bigger tournaments in the women’s tour. Another winning run will also boost her confidence and bring joy to her tennis fans, especially in the country.
“I would just like to express my gratitude for their support. Their cheers have been a huge inspiration and contribution to my success. I just hope that my tennis had also brought a smile to your faces amid these hard times,” Eala in her message to her fans.
Marco and Alex have a lot in common. They live in different countries with different cultures and people. They make so many sacrifices to get better and bring honor to the country now going through another surge of COVID-19 cases.
Things may be difficult for them being away from their families and friends, but they also know that this is the best way for them to excel, while the chances are there and the desire to compete is burning.
Making the most of the opportunities in these difficult times is just the start of the battle. Getting more is the real reward and victory.
Stay safe. Stay happy, peeps!