In football, players come and go all the time. Some are happy to stay with the club for a long time, while others need a fresh start and new challenges somewhere else after a while. Despite their departure, the club never forgets those who have been part of the club’s history. Kaya has had a lot of players since its founding, and they are missed but never forgotten. Though they might be playing for a different team or pursuing a different path, the brotherhood stands the test of time and distance, and that’s what it means to be a family. As Kaya begins a new chapter in 2017, we speak with former players Matthew Acton, Louis Clark, and Pablo Rodríguez Aracil. The Kaya chapter in their lives might be over, but their stories continue.
Matthew Acton joined Kaya in December 2015 after playing for Olympic FC. The Australian goalkeeper previously played for Yangon United in the Myanmar National League, where he made history as the first Australian goalkeeper to join the league. He now plays for A-League team Melbourne Victory, but this is not his first A-League team. He spent seven years with Brisbane Roar. Matt was our first-choice goalkeeper and started in all our 2016 AFC Cup games. He was also a goalkeeper coach at Kaya FC Academy.
Louis Clark signed with Kaya in September 2014 and was also involved with Kaya FC Academy. For two seasons, he never failed to demonstrate and embody the club’s philosophy on and off the pitch. (You can read our statement on his departure here.) Prior to joining Kaya, the Brightonian forward played for Cobram Victory and Myrtleford in Australia. After two seasons with the club, he now plays for S.League team Tampines Rovers, who won the S.League five times and qualified for the 2017 AFC Champions League.
Note: As of this writing, Louis Clark’s signing has been delayed due to injury.
Pablo Rodríguez Aracil joined Kaya in March 2014 and has played for several clubs in different countries in his career as a footballer. The experienced Spanish forward was a youth graduate of La Liga team Valencia and immediately left an impact at Kaya by scoring four goals in his four appearances. After his stint with Kaya, he played in Norway (Brumunddal Fotball) and the Maldives (Maziya Sports and Recreation Club) and now plays in Indonesia for Madura United.
Note: At the time of the interview, Pablo was still playing for Madura United. He has since signed with Hougang United in Singapore.
As we look back on their time with us, we asked them to do the same, specifically their favorite or fondest memories.
Matt: I think my favorite memory would have to be the AFC Cup campaign and the run that we went on to reach the final 16. Even though we lost in that match, I think we put Philippine football and Kaya FC on the map in Southeast Asia.
Louis: It has gotta be beating Meralco, 3–2, in the last minute, winning the UFL Cup final, and traveling for the away games in the AFC Cup.
Pablo: When I look back and I think about Kaya FC, I have really good memories, but maybe the best was when I scored two goals versus Loyola Meralco Sparks and we won … by that time in the league, we were still fighting to win the league.
These are great moments for the club too! And we are delighted that, one way or another, their experience at Kaya helped them in their careers.
Matt: Definitely, it allowed me to continue doing what I love, and that is playing football. I was able to play a great deal of games throughout the season. With that comes confidence in my ability on the field, and I now have a real hunger to be the no. 1 keeper at all my future clubs going forward.
Louis: Playing at Kaya shaped me not just as a player on the field but as a man off the field. Manila is special, and I experienced some crazy things whilst being there that I will never forget. I always had good people around me to guide me in the right direction, which I’m thankful for.
Pablo: Yeah, my experience in Kaya was really helpful! It was a really good experience to play for Kaya and in the Philippines. After my contract was up, I got to sign a new contract in Norway, and it was because Kaya FC gave me the opportunity to play for such a good club.
It is an honor for the club—not just to pave the way for new experiences but also new challenges, whether with the team or somewhere else. How they ended up with their new teams might pique your interest, so we asked them.
Matt: I received a phone call mid November from the club as one of their keepers sustained a serious injury. Within two days of that phone call, the contract was signed, and the hard work began.
Louis: Tampines Rovers watched us play when we played away in Singapore, and we made a deal as my contract with Kaya was coming to an end. The away game against Balestier Khalsa was when I really knew that we had a special team at Kaya.
Pablo: I end up playing in Indonesia after a successful season in the Maldives in 2015. I played in the AFC Cup, and I scored some important goals, and I played versus Persipura last season and thought of making good highlights and playing well. I had the chance to move to Indonesia this season and sign a good contract here.
A new club means new achievements, and while Pablo has notably left a good impression by becoming one of the top scorers with Madura United, Matt and Louis revealed what they want to achieve with their new clubs.
Matt: I want to improve every single day in training even if it’s just by small margins. It’s a fantastic club with all the facilities made available to us, so if I’m not improving every day, I’ll be disappointed. It goes without saying also that I want to help the club finish as high as possible this season and go into the finals at our peak performance.
Louis: Goals similar to those I had at Kaya, to be fair. Take each game as it comes and try to win the league and go as far as we can in the AFC Cup and Champions League.
As we reminisce, we couldn’t help but ask them about the issues they think that Philippine football needs to address to make sure interest in the sport stays strong and more kids get into the sport.
Matt: Clubs need to work from the kids up like Kaya FC do. Without kids involved in club academies, there is no future for the game. I think the PFF needs to do more to promote the game of football as they have a massive pool of population for a target market. I think the national league that is planned is a great concept, but it needs to be run correctly and with no shortcuts. If that fails, it’s hard for me to see football in the Philippines going into the future, which would be truly sad. If the PFF get it right, and I know they can, then I see in the next 10 years the league in the Philippines being a powerhouse in Southeast Asia.
Louis: Don’t get me started.
Pablo: I believe the Philippines is in a really good position for developing football, much better than before … but federación [Philippine Football Federation] and some sponsors should work hard to make a better league and more professional … and of course, the supporters would help a lot if the stadiums could always be full. They should make a new league, and every team should have their own stadium, but without investment, it’s impossible to make it. I hope, little by little, Philippine football grows faster ’cause they have really good players, local players, and with good investment, clubs could sign better foreigners, and then the level would be higher.
With that said, they also gave some sound advice to players who want to play overseas.
Matt: I would advise them to just keep working extremely hard in training and trying to improve every day. When there is a chance to impress, take that opportunity. I know for a fact that clubs are now looking into players from the Philippines to take abroad. It’s nothing to be afraid of. At the end of the day, if players go abroad, they are doing something that a lot of players won’t look to do. If it’s something a player wants to do, then don’t stop until you make it happen.
Louis: Players that wanna play overseas. Do it. You will make friends for life! I think it adds value to a player who can play abroad. It takes some bottle to leave your family at the airport, but once you’re where you need to be and have good people around you, you just get on with what you need to do, work hard, and start enjoying yourself. Also, get your footage together and e-mail your tape to every coach you know. Playing abroad is a pleasure and something you will remember forever. Yes, you have to make sacrifices, but nowadays, with technology like FaceTime and WhatsApp, your mates and family are only one call away.
Pablo: My advice is to focus on their dreams and goals. Be professionals and hard workers and, of course, never give up ’cause dreams may come true if the faith is strong.
They all say that it’s all about working hard. There’s no secret to success. It’s always about working hard and making it a habit—it’s the will, not the skill, as they say.
Lastly, a fitting end to our lovely chat means sharing a few words with their former Kaya teammates and supporters. Matt, Louis, and Pablo may be writing different chapters today, but they once shared that with the club in which there were moments of excitement, joy, victory, defeat, and hope.
Matt: To my former teammates, I’d just like to say a massive thank-you to them for allowing me the opportunity to play alongside them all. It was an enjoyable season because of my teammates, and I’ve made lifelong friends from the group. They welcomed me from day 1 and made my transition to life in the Philippines easy. To the fans, Ultras Kaya, thank you for always supporting us throughout the season. It didn’t matter the day, the time, or the opponent. You were always there for us, our 12th man. So thank you. Lastly, I wish the club all the success in the future as they deserve it. I hope they can get back to the top and qualify for the AFC Cup again as they deserve to be there. Lastly, Una Kaya!
Louis: I’m Kaya till I die, and I’ll be back one day. The Ultras are the best fans in the country, bar none, and will always be. Special club with incredible people.
Pablo: My message to all my ex-teammates is … I really made good memories with them, and I hope to see them again on a football field someday or just hang out together and talk about life or whatever. I want to send a big hug to all of them and especially the Tolentino brothers ’cause they gave me the chance to play for Kaya FC and also to David Perković, who believed in me too when I played there. And to all the supporters, a big hug to all of them from Indonesia.
Thank you too, guys, and we wish you all the best in your careers.
Some photos courtesy of Pablo and Matt.