Philippine football has never seen as much success since its sudden push into the mainstream by the Philippine Azkals heydays of 2012. As much as the sport has grown since then, one person has been at the forefront of it all, former National Team Captain and current Team Captain of Kaya FC, Aly Borromeo. Getting into sports as a kid and being a part of the varsity team of different sports such as, golf, soccer, tennis, basketball, and even track and field, he already knew that this was what he wanted to do in life. But he claims leadership wasn’t something he was born with, but something he had to grow into.
“I was an introvert when I was younger, but at the same time I want to get a feel of things, get a feel of my surroundings, and the team. I wanted to be out there, then I’d be able to express myself. I liked my own time, but I also like being around people.
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I was always the guy at the back always chilling. Just overseeing things, it’s more quiet. But in the early stages of my career, I started as a goalkeeper, so that helped me oversee the game from a different angle. I saw how the game would unfold, how things would happen, and eventually I got bored. I played field, defender, striker, started scoring some goals, but that helped my transition. I knew the next step."
Being in sports, he claims, helped him gain friends and confidence. But as with most kids growing up, Aly also experienced his fair share of bullies. Instead of having it bring him down, he used it as motivation to get even better in sport, and as a person.
“I did (get bullied). I went to an international school growing up, in grade school, and I would always get called out on my hair lip, for some reason I never thought it was an issue, but people started calling me ‘ngo ngo, ngo ngo,’ ‘alimango’ all these weird names. I remember a few times, I’d come home from school crying to my mom because at that time the seniors in high school would go at me, call me names what not.
And my first ever fight in high school, I was a new kid coming into school, white boy, so they were calling me names, and there was this one guy, he was my classmate, and he just went at me for no reason, calling me names like “ngo ngo” and so I was like “what did I do? I didn’t do anything” and he was like “Sapakan tayo sa labas mamaya” so all the seniors in high school were the ones organizing it, so I was a new kid in first year high school thinking “is this how this works here?” so I was like okay let’s go with the flow. I was never the type to hide and be scared, I’d always be up for the challenge.
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So we went outside and I told the guys that were fixing the fight that I’d go to the bathroom first to take a leak, so as I took a leak and zipped up my pants, the guy calling me names, he was so aggressive, and he socked me in my face, so I took the blow, and I got surprised, and then eventually I got so pissed and tackled him, and beat his ass, and threw him around. So I gained the respect of all the seniors and my batch, and from then on I never got picked on. And that helped me be more confident, I guess, in life”.
As Aly moved on to playing professional football, he was dealt with a different set of adversities, in detractors from the public, as well as meeting several injuries, which include four knee surgeries, forcing him to get sidelined from his sport. But through all this, he still maintains his focus to come back, and transform these setbacks into something better.
“All I can say is, all the difficulties I encountered growing up made me who I am today, whether it was bullying, injuries, losing loved ones, it was always a challenge for me to take it to the next level I guess.
I think I realized this towards the end of my career, that it was god’s way of putting me down because of my injuries. Calm down, and reflect on anything else that’s out in life. It’s not just sports. I was just fixated in playing everyday, competing. But I realized when I was injured that there’s so much out there.
It made me stronger, work hard, it made me make a statement in many ways. I wouldn’t fight back I wouldn’t react out of context, or be reactive. I was always proactive. If you’re bullying me, I’ll come back at you harder.
And I also took that in my game in life, to the pitch, and in life.
With bullying, I never really took it in until I was older and realized all these things actually make an impression on your life. Now I’m an ambassador for this group called Operation Restore Hope. It gives back to kids who were born with cleft palates and disorders on their face. I motivate these kids, inspire them, and show them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
And for those that may also experience setbacks in life, from experience, Aly shares what he thinks is important to always keep in mind.
“It’s about perseverance. Just think about what else is out there. These people bullying you are just narrow minded people, they have nothing else to do, and ask them why they’re here in the world, what’s their place? We all have different roles in life so tell them to think about other stuff.”
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Clothes from Mango Man.
Photos by Vyn Radovan. Interview by Camille Santiago. Video by Lui Jimenez and Kang Garcia. Grooming by Chuchie Ledesma. Styling by Aldrin Ramos. Shot on location at Privato Hotel Quezon City. Special thanks to Gabriel Perez and Katrina Luz-Lincuna.