Young talents boost Kaya FC ahead of UFL FA Cup final

MANILA, Philippines -Ever wonder why some players of Kaya FC’s Football Alliance Cup team look so young? It's because they are. The squad recently got reinforced by some of their younger brethren from their football academy.

The group of youngsters that are now part of their Cup roster are mostly composed of 16 year olds, a 17 year old and a 19 year old who are all equally hungry to show Filipino football fans what they can do inside the pitch. 

Although they all are just young Futboleros, these kids are not new to the beautiful game of football. In fact, most of them have already earned championships in the youth division of the United Football League (UFL), playing for Kaya FC’s Under-17 squad. 

The boys of Kaya

The oldest of the gang, Emilio Pelaez, 19, plays the role of central defender for the squad. He is a player that is “very good in tackling, positioning, & heading. Has good anticipation & clears balls out of dangerous situations reliably. A very pesky defender who will hound his man until he wins ball back,” as the boys’ team manager Raffy Herrera describes him.

Another defender from this young collective is Noc Cruz, 16, who arguably is one of the best defenders in Kaya’s young line-up with his excellent tackling and defensive abilities. In their recent game against Loyola, this young left-back showed off his defensive capacities by going up against the veteran front line of their foes and preventing them from getting through to the goal.

Dom Del Rosario, another defender, is a 17 year-old Fil-Australian player who just came to the program last year. He crosses the ball well and is a great 1-on-1 defender. He is also a national player in the country’s Under-21 football squad.

Additionally, Rocky Plaza, a 16 year-old midfielder from Southville has great footwork. This young lad can, according to Raffy Herrera, “pass or shoot from long distances with either foot and has good ball control, footskills, dribbling, & passing.” Also, like Del Rosario, he also plays for the Under-21 national team.

Another young midfielder, Iñigo Herrera, 16 years old from Southridge, was one of the four goal scorers from their recent quarterfinal campaign against Pachanga. This fresh recruit from the Kaya FC academy will most likely be a future top-class midfielder in the pros. 

A player with great foot skills and can place long ranged shots, Paeng Siggaoat, a 16 year-old midfielder from Colegio San Agustin, can use his arsenal of dribbling skill to get his way out of pressure. Although he is relatively new to the program, his presence fits well for Kaya FC.

Lastly, the lone forward from this company of young adults, Carlitos Mathay, 16, from Xavier is an “attacker with blinding speed & good dribbling skills. Effectively works the flanks with his superior speed and can cross accurately,” according to their team manager.

In an interview with Rappler, the boys explained that all of them felt honored when they knew that they would be promoted to the first squad, adding that they all were ecstatic to play with the big boys of the UFL. 

Most of them also said that we can expect them to learn more as their level of play get more mature as they play on in the pros. They all hope that they can continue playing the sport, which they are all passionate about. 

When asked about which Azkals player they look up to the most, most of them had the same answer - Chris Greatwich. This is a testament to how much most of these young guns really look up to their mentor. Iñigo Herrera even added, “he [Greatwich] has a high work rate. Also, he is a perfect midfielder and a great leader. He can really control the game and provide creativity in both offense and defense.”

Coach’s Insights

Consequently, Kaya FC’s playing coach and academy director Chris Greatwich revealed that the boys were already training with them regularly. He also reiterated that there were signs that the kids were ready to take on a higher level of play so they decided to promote them to the first squad.

“The plan is to have them train with us as much as possible while trying to balance their academics. It is important that they all focus on that as it only takes one injury to end your footballing career. They are all bright kids so they will go on to do well in a professional setting whatever they decide to pursue. If it's football, then great. If not, hopefully what the coaches have taught them in the Academy - to work hard, to be disciplined, to work as a team - will be transferable to their chosen careers,” Greatwich added.

Moreover, Coach Greatwich said that the game they will be playing on Saturday will be rough and clarified that he expects his youth players to continue to step up as they go against the champs of the recent UFL season for the FA Cup final.

“Global are the current UFL Champions so it'll be a tough game. We always have exciting games with them so hopefully for the fans it will be another one this Saturday. I think we have been playing well; our youth guys have been excellent and the players who didn't play so much last season have really stepped up. All I can ask of the team is to focus on our game, execute the plan and go out and enjoy the occasion,” he ended. -