A champion’s touching story on and off the football fieldBy Carmencita S. Sioson |Philippine Daily Inquirer
After winning all 16 games in this year’s United Football League, Team Socceroo Football Club’s second division perfectly finished this season and continues to play the sport with a “full heart”—the mantra of its late cofounder, Wool Reyes.
Early this year, Wool, the fourth in a family of nine, died at age 34 from cardiac arrest after a brain aneurysm. Though he died at an early age, those who had known him say he lived a full and fulfilling life.
“Kuya Wool was a family man who loved his family and sacrificed a lot,” said his brother, cofounder and team manager Nicholas Reyes, who now runs the academy with his brothers Michael and Paulus.
Wool also helped establish a soccer and futsal program at the University of Asia and the Pacific while working on his Industrial Economics degree and earning his Master’s in entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management.
Soon after, he founded Team Socceroo FC, even as he took over as head of the family at age 24 after his father Wency died.
“I still remember that time our father passed away 10 years ago and Kuya Wool and I were crying in the car,” said Nicholas. “He said to me, ‘Wala na si Daddy, but we have to be strong and support each other especially mom and mga kapatid natin.”
Though he took on heavy responsibilities early on, Wool is remembered by friends and family as someone they could count on for almost anything, from counseling to partying.
Nicholas fondly recalled a “gimmick night” in May last year when Wool took him and his friends out to Privé, a bar at BGC, and instead of lining up to get in, he managed to skip around 100 people.
“He said, ‘Ako bahala, relax lang, ganito strategy,’” recounted Nicholas. “When we reached the entrance and the bouncer saw us, he said, ‘Uy, halika dito, kasama ko lahat ito ah…’ The bouncer, confused, thought he was a VIP and let everyone in.”
Apparently, Wool had the ability to deal with any situation, effortlessly and optimistically.
“He was also the main reason we started playing football,” said academy director Michael. “When he was 7 years old and in grade school at PAREF Southridge School, our mom (Maria Cristina) noticed he was always very energetic, so she decided to enroll him in football.”
Nicholas added: “He lived a balanced life, was a man of character, and who kept God as his focus for our family.”
Wool firmly believed in the development of Philippine football by training the youth at the grassroots level and setting values-before-victory principles that his brothers continue to inculcate.
The Manila-based football club that promotes football for seniors and the youth has grown since the Reyes brothers established it in 2010.
Through one of its programs, FC Barcelona Escola Camp, young football enthusiasts are taught by one of the best football clubs in the world, which has produced great talents like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andres Iniesta.
“Kuya Wool remained a keen sportsman and a proud founder of Team Socceroo,” said Nicholas. “He gave his full heart to the football club, from the kids playing all the way to the UFL team which is now at the top of the UFL League.”
Wool joined tournaments abroad such as the Helsinki Cup and Gothia Cup in Europe, and became the captain of his school’s varsity team, leading it to football championships.
“He would always get us to play together, and I knew that playing together in football tournaments taught us more than just the game of football,” said Paulus, the youngest of the four brothers involved in both coaching and marketing of the academy.
Fueled by Wool’s commitment to the sport, their love of football started in childhood. “He had a strong heart and a strong will and he inspired me to be passionate,” said Michael. “He would always say that every problem has a solution.”
From watching each other’s games and training together, to playing futsal on the streets at night and football in the park, the brothers forged a strong bond with the sport. With very encouraging parents and five supportive sisters, football also became a “family thing.”
“Working with your brothers is like a roller coaster with ups and downs, but at the end of the day, the ride is always worth it,” said Nicholas.
With a common goal of producing young, well-formed players who can represent the national team through the ranks and play in international tournaments, Team Socceroo FC seeks to promote Philippine football following Wool’s philosophy: “Plenus pectus—it means ‘full heart,’” said Nicholas. “If you put your heart in anything, everything follows.”
With their evident camaraderie and passion for football, the brothers make a stronger team not only in sport, but also in business.
But most important, it has made them into well-rounded and conscientious men. As Paulus said, “The reality is that not all children will end up as football players, but to instill in them values makes their experience in our academy worthwhile.”
“Winning is good, but winning with values is better,” said Nicholas. “Kuya Wool knew his limits, values and virtues instilled by my parents, and which I am very proud of.”
He added, “Kuya Wool left the world a better place than when he found it, and for that, we will always be grateful.”
Log on to www.teamsocceroo.com and register to read about Team Socceroo FC’s coming women’s squad, adult classes and futsal tours.