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GK sends off SipaG kids for Hazebrouck International Youth Cup, EU tour
By: Marlyn G. Importante

Gawad Kalinga (GK) hosted a send-off last May 5, 2017 at the GK HQ office in Mandaluyong City for the 12 SipaG kids, who are in Europe since May 11. The group joined an international tournament in France and attended football trainings in Barcelona, Spain, and Zurich, Switzerland.

SipaG is a GK grassroots gender-neutral youth empowerment program through sports. Though SipaG is a GK-initiated program, it is not exclusive to GK residents and beneficiaries as it seeks to build programs and partnership with public primary elementary schools. Lately, it has been focusing on developing Futsal, a variant of football that can be played with less players and resources in smaller spaces.

The SipaG kids’ European trip is made possible through the generosity of GK French interns who raised funds to sponsor the trip. Coach Thomas Paul Pfly, the Swiss volunteer coach of GK SipaG, also supported the trip through the KAYA FC Academy in Manila, to which he is a resident coach. The academy has a community-based scheme that aims to develop and nurture footballers of all ages, levels, and abilities. Their programs are designed to help each child develop his own set of skills, build his self-confidence and value the essence of teamwork. Coach Thomas hails the SipaG kids for their talent and persistence to learn.

Also in attendance during the send-off are the SipaG Kids’ beloved families, their coaches and some GK full time workers. Tito Ernie Maipid opened the program by sharing with them GK’s history and passing on to them important GK values, “Kayo ay mga ambassador, ipamalas nyo sa buong mundo kung ano ang galling ng mga Pilipino, lalo na sa pakikipagkaibigan.” Coach Nico Lufamia (from GK Tatalon) also addressed to the young SipaG kids by sharing his journey with SipaG, “Dalawa kaming magkapatid na nagsimula sa GK at ngayon graduating na sa college. Thankful na ako dun, pero ngayon ibang experience naman (European Trip) kaya kung ano ang itinuro sa akin noon, I will share it sa inyo ngayon.” Coach Nico and his brother started as kids in the program and now as young adults, they are now running the SipaG program in GK Tatalon, which utilizes soccer as a means to gather and bring together the kids and the community, as well.

During the send-off, the kids and their parents also shared their inspiring messages to each other. One of the parents mentioned that she is so proud to see her daughter realizing her dream of playing in an international tournament. The kids’ touching messages to their family and the GK community has moved everyone including Kuya Luis, who stated that “This little hope can inspire too many” and further added “This is God’s blessings (to the kids).” He also stressed that the kids do not own a debt of gratitude to GK because God is just using GK to fulfill this task.”

Coach Chester, a GK fulltime Worker from GK Mandaluyong and currently an AFC C-Licensed Coach, WFL Match Official and WFL referee, gave an important reminder for the kids to keep in mind during their European trip, “Di man tayo kasing-galing nila pero sana pagkatapos ng trip na ito makuha natin ang standards at disiplina nila sa paglalaro.”

After this sendoff, the kids has experienced two significant firsts in their lives, their first air travel and their first visit to Europe, where they spent their first day in Netherlands, after which, they attended football clinics in Barcelona and Zurich. They also competed in the under 13 categories of Hazebrouck International Youth Cup in Paris with 3 wins, 3 loses record. This trip is truly one for the books as they are the first batch of SipaG kids and for being the first Filipino team to make it to Futbol Salou, who are given the great privilege of joining a prestigious tournament in Europe. The 12 kids are accompanied by their coaches, Coach Thomas Paul Pfly, Coach Kevin Goco, Coach Dennis Montealto, Coach Chester De Torres, and Coach Nico John Lufamia.

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