Philippine football

‘Gutom factor’ fuels Negros kids to snatch Spain football crown

Erwin Delilan

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‘Gutom factor’ fuels Negros kids to snatch Spain football crown

LITTLE CHAMPIONS. The players of the Filipinas San Carlos U-12 Team celebrate their title win in Spain.

Provincial Government of Negros Occidental

These 11-year-old Negros football players pull off a surprise in the international stage, winning the 2024 Real Madrid Foundation Clinics World Challenge in Spain

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines –They’re football scholars playing for the city’s elite team. But these 11-year-old Negros kids showed they’re also winners in the international stage.

Led by team stars Klent Paul Montilla and Felex Rey Caballero, the Filipinas San Carlos U-12 Team surprised their bigger and taller foes to rule the 2024 Real Madrid Foundation Clinics World Challenge at the Valdebebas Training Ground in Madrid, Spain on March 26-31. 

Head coach Francis Roy Barcuma told Rappler that his 12 players – all coming from low-income families in various villages in San Carlos City – showed the “gutom factor” (hunger) that fueled them to “kick hard” and “aspire big” for a better future through football.

“It can be seen in their faces and movements that they’re determined to win…to be champions,” said Barcuma of his players, all public elementary school students in the city.

The young San Carlos booters fought seven games in the Spain football tourney – won six, lost one – prior to their championship match where they dominated with a 3-0 victory over USA-Blue on March 31.

Montilla scored the first goal before Caballero sealed it with a brace. 

Happy, happy gid ko nga naka-kadto na ko sa Spain (I am so happy that I went to Spain already),” said Montilla, whose mother Josefa works as a vendor, while father Arnel remains jobless.

Second in the broad of four, Montilla vowed to practice more to be the next “football star” in the country.

Klent Paul Montilla

For Caballero, “football is life” even if life is tough for his family. His father Bryan Rey works at the city’s water district while his mother Arnie takes care of him and his four other siblings.

Like Montilla, Caballero also hopes to become a “football idol” when he grows up.

Body Part, Finger, Hand
Felex Rey Caballero

Rounding out the champion team are Charles Adam Dignos, Twirl Gelito, Christian Paul Limpio, Mark Ross Mabesa, Dhroy Miguel, Mathew Jacob Pamilar, Franz Mekael Jhay Salvador, John Jacob Sildura, Ivan Dio Silvar, and Frenchzuef Machryl Subrado.

The local government celebrated their feat with a morning victory caravan in the entire poblacion of San Carlos City, 398 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Bacolod City.

San Carlos Mayor Rene Gustilo, in a press conference on Thursday, April 8, said the city is “beyond proud” of their little champions.

Gustilo believes that with the San Carlos City Negros Football Club (SCCNFC) and Sining at Pag-asa (SIPA), the boys can continue to hone their skills and dream big.

SIPA is a joint football program of the local government of San Carlos and Fundacion Real Madrid since 2016 that aims to discover and train young boys in the city. 

Jose Miguel Valmayor, vice president of SCCNFC, said it’s the first time in 20 years since founding the club that their team copped an international title.

Gustilo said the 12 talented young players will receive a cash incentive of P20,000 each from the city government.

The promising Caballero said the reward will be a big help to his family, especially to his siblings.

But like any kid, he also wants to celebrate, “Ma-bonding kami ka mga igso-on ko (I’ll spend some bonding time with my siblings).” –

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