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Simone Rota is truly a Filipino at heart

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 117

INDEED, nothing happens by chance in this life.

I have been thinking of writing  this piece  for a few months now  but for one reason or another, I  have not found the time to do the interview and the piece afterwards, though I first met Philippine Azkal player Simone Rota when my old friend Albert Almendralejo launched PRU Life UK’s second edition of the Football For A Better Life (FFABL) program, a nation-wide grassroots football developmental  program in different parts of the country.
It features a free football clinic for kids with former Azkal Chieffy  Caligdong as chief trainer assisted by a few active Azkals with Simone  as one of them, in fact he was at the launching at the PSA Forum in Malate together with Misagh Bahadoran and Amani Aguinaldo, but I only had  a limited opportunity to talk to him.
Last Wednesday night, I was at The Haze at BGC , it was the 35th anniversary of TCL, a leading player in the global TV industry , based in China but has  grown over the years  and now operates in 80 countries worldwide, and the event was  to launch TCL’s  CSR program on Sharing Life Through Sports.
This is a four-part web series called Inspiring Bonding Moments and features 4 different athletes  from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand  and Indonesia with none other than Simone as the Filipino athlete chosen.
Simone is one guy whose life is a lot like other Filipinos but with a tear jerker as  an ending, he was abandoned as  a baby at the Buklod Kalinga orphanage in Parañaque but was fortunate to have been adopted by an Italian couple  who brought him back to Italy and raised him as  their son, and  since he grew up there, he did not learn to speak Pilipino and English.
At an early age, he  started playing football, at 17, he was already contracted  as a professional player  and played for teams in Italy and Switzerland  for the next 12 years.
Until he made a fateful decision, a decision that  would change his life dramatically, a decision that a lot of adopted children struggle with all their lives, with the blessing of his foster parents, he decided to go back to the Philippines for two reasons, play football which was on the rise here with a lot of Fil-foreign players  discovering  their roots and  suiting up for the Azkals,  but more importantly, to look for  his biological parents.
Two years ago, he was reunited with Sister May at the Buklod Kalinga orphanage and  she helped him search for his parents with several women coming out and claiming Simone  to be their son, but sorry, the DNA testing  disproved their claim, and  up to the present, Simone still has not found  who his real parents are.
And for now, he has decided to end his search and just  wait  if something will turn out in the future.
This search of Simone and his subsequent decision to stay here in the Philippines for good will also be captured in a full documentary  being produced by Albert and to be shown in Channel 2.
And  if you will be impressed already with Simone’s decision to stay  rather than go back to a supposedly better life in Europe, then  you will admire more this guy  for his decision to live in  the same orphanage  where he was adopted, and helping take care of the kids  there.
He teaches them how to play football and show them that football  can give them a chance to better their lives in the future, he sleeps with them, watches TV on a 40"  set donated by TCL to the orphanage ,brings them to school,  and even cooks for them at times.         In fact three  times a week, Simone  also goes to squatter areas and feeds poor kids with lugaw, spending his own money for it.
I got  my chance to ask him a lot of question at The Haze that night, thanks to that TCL event, and I learned he  was to undergo an ACL procedure on his right leg at the hospital and will be out of action for 6 to 7 months, and admitted he cried and felt sad that he will miss playing for the Azkals, particularly in the Suzuki Cup, but remains  steadfast in his dream together with his Azkals’ teammates of  winning  that tournament and qualifying for the Asian Cup.
When asked by other media guys  there  on the future of the  Azkals, considering  their  recent back to back losses  in friendly games and with a lot of younger players now with the team, Simone says these guys have to be given the chance to play together longer and develop chemistry the way  the Azkals of a few years back did, and  he is confident that it will come, his role when he comes back, to be a “kuya” of sorts.
Speaking like a foreigner who has barely learned his Pilipino words, he was asked  what he could  advise to people based on his personal experience in the country, he replied, “do  not drive, and do not ride the MRT at 6 p.m.”, which drew a lot of laughter, Simone has indeed become a true Filipino in terms of suffering our daily traffic problem here.
But he says his biggest learning here in the Philippines is how to enjoy a simple life as he experiences it with the orphanage kids, he says the kids have taught him to appreciate more and enjoy what he has instead of dwelling on what  he does not have.
No, he does not have a Filipina girlfriend, nor a non-Filipina girlfriend but he is perfectly happy with  the present loves of his life, the kids at Buklod Kalinga and he says he has found his home, describing the orphanage  as “my home and will always be my home, wherever I go, I know that there will always  be  a room here when I need it.”
Now you see why I should do this piece to share with you the kind of man Simone is.
Hopefully, this Christmas, I can join him  at their Christmas party and bring  my share of gifts for the kids there as I do yearly in Mt. Banahaw and for Manila’s street kids.
A heads-up, I will be in Bangkok for a needed R & R with my wife, daughter and grandchild from Tuesday to Friday next week..
The last time I was in Thailand  was in 2014 but we went to Phuket because I won 4 round-trip tickets from CebuPac from a event I covered but for Bangkok, we visited this place the last time about 15 years ago to visit my high school classmate and stayed there for several days.         This time, we are on our own but then with my apo in tow, I will enjoy any place with her.
I hope to do a piece while in Bangkok.