With the second season of the Philippines Football League looming near, clubs have been busy shaping their squads for the grueling demands of the upcoming campaign. Kaya FC–Makati has moved swiftly in the market, and is delighted to announce that four new players are set to bolster the squad. Camelo Tacusalme and Michael Menzi have officially signed for the club, while Arnel Amita and Audie Menzi have agreed to sign after their UAAP commitments. Two of the new additions have been longterm targets of Kaya’s management, while the other two are no strangers to the club’s setup. Let’s get to know each one.
Position: Center Back
Born: August 5, 1989 (28)
Hometown: Talisay, Negros Occidental
Previous Teams: Pachanga, Ceres, JPV Marikina, Philippine National Team
The most experienced of the bunch, and the one with the highest profile, is Camelo Tacusalme. The highly rated center back may float under the radar of the casual Filipino football fan, but ask any coach in the league of their assessment of the defender, and they’ll be quick to sing his praises. It’s no wonder that Kaya has been waiting for some time to get him at the club.
“Even before the 2017 season started we were already asking [to sign him]. We wanted Camelo to be a part of Kaya,” said head coach Noel Marcaida. “He’s the type of player that can really help our defensive line in terms of speed, and balancing the defensive line along with Masa (Omura).”
For the 28-year-old, the feeling is mutual.
“Saya. Sobrang saya, kasi ilang years ko na rin pinangarap na pumasok dito, pero may mga pumipigil. Ngayon na-achieve ko na, nandito na ako,” he said on his move from JPV Marikina.
(“Happy. I’m so happy because, I’ve wanted to be here for many years, but there were forces stopping it. Now I’ve achieved it, I’m here.”)
“Kasi professionally, maganda ang Kaya,” he explained of his longstanding desire to join the club. “Same ang pagtrato sa lahat ng player, walang hihigit, same lahat.”
(“Because professionally, Kaya is great. All the players are treated the same, no one is above anyone.”)
But while he was disappointed with his inability to move last year, he still made the most of his stint with JPV, where he was a rock in their defense. Such was the level he was displaying that he earned a call up from Thomas Dooley to play for the Philippine Team in a friendly against China. With the departure of Alfred Osei, Tacusalme is expected to be a key figure in the upcoming season. And aside from bringing a physicality and an ability to read the game well, the Talisay native also has a deep familiarity with a few of Kaya’s squad members.
“Si Jovin (Bedic), si Baking (Jalsor Soriano), Panhay (Jayson), si Janrick (Soriano), sila yung mga nakasama ko dati, starting college days sa Bacolod,” he revealed with a smile.
(“Jovin, Baking, Panhay, Janrick, they’re the ones I played with, back in the college days in Bacolod.”)
With his arrival, Camelo further solidifies Kaya’s growing list of experienced homegrown players who truly embody the club’s spirit.
“Gagawin ko lang yung lahat na makakaya ko para ma-lift up yung panagalan ng Kaya. Ibibigay ko ang 100% na performance ko dito,” he said.
(“I’m just going to do everything I can to lift up the name of Kaya. I’m going to give 100% in my performances here.”)
For those yet to see him in action, and are curious as to his style of play, his description is simple, “Hard siguro sa bola, yun nalang,” he laughed.
(“I’m hard on the ball, that’s it.”)
Position: Full Back, Defensive Midfielder
Born: May 14, 1993 (24)
Hometown: La Trinidad, Benguet
Previous Teams: FEU, Kaya B
Of the four new additions, perhaps the one with the most interesting path to the First Team is Michael Menzi.
“May konting history. Kasi nung first year college ako, nilalaro ako ni Master Kim (former Far Eastern University head coach) as a full-time goalkeeper. May assistant coach kami nun na goalkeeper, and dinala niya ako dito [sa Kaya to tryout] as keeper. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. Ngayon, nandito ako as field player, and yun yung pangarap ko, maglaro as field player, so it’s a real dream come true.”
(“There’s a bit of history. When I was in first year college, I was being played by Master Kim as a full-time goalkeeper. We had an assistant coach who was a goalkeeper, and he brought me here to tryout as a keeper. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. Now, I’m here as a field player, and that was my goal, to play as a field so player, so it’s a real dream come true.”)
Like his younger brother Audie, Michael was a standout in a talent-rich FEU squad. Last year, he spent his time playing for Kaya’s B Team, playing a key role in the team’s title-winning run in the WFL. There, he solidified his ability to operate effectively in multiple roles on the pitch.
“Michael Menzi had been playing well in the B team. He’s one of the players, along with Audie, who put a solid defensive unit in our B Team,” explained Noel Marcaida. “Not only that, he’s a utility player that can help the midfield line as well. He has the quality and confidence to deliver the ball, and can maneuver the midfield areas if given space.”
The promotion to the First Team is a deserved one for the young Benguet native, and the opportunity is one that he is reveling in.
“Syempre unang una, it’s a privilege kasi nung nakapasok palang ako sa B Team, parang sabi ko, ‘It’s a dream come true na makalaro sa Kaya.’ Bonus nalang na mabigyan ng exposure, what more now na nasa First Team nako. Eto na yung pinakamalaking blessing sa akin. At the same time, I’m looking forward sa upcoming season, at ma-meet yung mga seniors na I’ve been looking forward to meet, and I’ve been looking up to. Some of the players magagaling talaga, so ina-idol ko. Masaya,” he said.
(“First of all, it’s a privilege because when I entered the B team, I said, ‘It’s a dream come true to play for Kaya.’ It’s just a bonus that I’m given exposure, what more now that I’m in the First Team. This is the biggest blessing for me. At the same time, I’m looking forward to the upcoming season, to meet the seniors that I’ve been looking forward to meet, and I’ve been looking up to. Some of the players are really good, so I’ve idolized them. I’m happy.”)
Asked where he preferred to play in the upcoming campaign, Michael said without hesitation, “Kahit anong ibigay na posisyon.”
“Hindi naman ako magpo-promise ng mataas na expectation para sa akin, pero I’ll make sure na mapapansin ako sa field with my intensity and pagiging hard working ko, and sa pagtulong ko both defensively and in attack,” he added.”
(“I’m not promising that there should be high expectations of me, but I’ll make sure that I’ll be noticeable on the field with my intensity and my being hard working, and my ability to help both defensively and in attack.”)
Arnel Amita (Nano)
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Born: Jan 10, 1995 (22)
Hometown: Compostela Valley, Davao
Previous Teams: FEU, Loyola Meralco Sparks, Manila Jeepney, Meralco Manila, Philippines U23
Easily one of the hottest young prospects in the Philippines over the last few years, Arnel Amita’s decision to join after his UAAP career, is one that has been sought by Kaya’s management for quite some time. Timing was the biggest hindrance in the previous seasons, but now, “Nano”, as he’s called, is excited to make his dream move.
“Since bata pa kasi ako, nung naglalaro pa ako sa FEU high school, pinapangarap ko talaga makalaro sa Kaya. Yun yung dream team ko, kasi dati nung nanunood ako ng UFL, sila ang pumapasok parati — against Air Force, against Meralco. Matagal ko nang gustong makapasok kaso wala lang chance. Tinitingnan ko yung mga players ang lalakas eh,” he explained.
(“Since I was a kid, when I was playing for FEU high school, I really dreamt of playing at Kaya. That was my dream because, when I watched the UFL, they were always competing for trophies — against Air Force, against Meralco. I’ve wanted to get in here for a long time, but there just wasn’t a chance. I was looking at the players, and they were just so strong.”)
Unfortunately, Kaya’s supporters will have to wait a little longer before they can witness Amita’s slick passing and clever movement in the PFL. For one, he still needs to overcome a longterm knee injury that has plagued him in recent years. Second, he wants to play in the UAAP for his final year of eligibility with FEU.
“Syempre masaya,” he said of his move to Kaya. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon at kay boss Paul [Tolentino] (Kaya General Manager) na sumusuporte sa akin kahit na injured pa ako. Masaya din ako kasi nandito din ang mga kasama ko sa FEU,” he pointed out, joining other standouts Eric Giganto, Chy Villaseñor, and the Menzi brothers.
(“Of course I’m happy. I give thanks to God, and to boss Paul [Tolentino], who has supported me even while I’m still injured. I’m also happy because my former FEU teammates are here.”)
“Two years na ako [injured]. Nagre-rehab ako ngayon. Six months na ako in rehab. Ang sabi nila, susubukan nilang makapaglaro ako after eight (March). Una, sana makapaglaro sa UAAP. Tapos, gustong gusto kong makalaro sa PFL. Papasok na ako sa Kaya, yun yung inaabangan ko talaga,” he stated
(“I’ve been injured for two years. I’m doing rehab now. I’ve been in rehab for six months. They say they’ll try to have me playing in eight (March). First, I’d like to play in the UAAP. Then, I really want to play in the PFL. I’ll be part of Kaya soon, and that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”)
Amita first turned heads as a teenager in the United Football League, where he put in some dazzling displays against the nation’s best players. His technique and creativity was rare for such a young player. And despite his small physical stature, he wasn’t bullied by the league’s veteran bruisers. As such, his return from injury is highly anticipated, with many eager to see his individual talents back in full display. Nano, however, is just eager to make his contribution.
“Kapag sinabi kasing football, 11 [players] eh. Ako, nagbibigay lang din sa team. Ginagawa ko lang yung best ko kung ano yung pinapatrabaho sa akin,” he said.
(“When you talk about football, it’s 11 players. Me, I just give to the team. I just do my best with what is asked of me.”)
“He has really suffered with his ACL injury. It kept on coming back, and became chronic. With the Kaya management, I think, we will be able to give him that chance to really recover, and to really have that patience to strengthen that injury,” said Noel Marcaida. “Before he signed for Meralco (in the UFL), again, Kaya was the first club to contact Nano. Hopefully, his strength comes back. We’re really looking forward to a player that can be a game changer off the bench, and Amita is a player who can do that.”
Position: Center Back
Born: October 11, 1994 (23)
Hometown: La Trinidad, Benguet
Previous Team: FEU, Kaya FC (UFL), Kaya B
The other player who has agreed to join the club after the UAAP season, actually, isn’t really new. Audie Menzi already played for the First Team a couple of years ago, back when the club was competing in the United Football League, a semi-pro competition. But since Audie was still an active player for his university, any involvement in the PFL, a fully fledged professional competition, would have disqualified him from representing his school. As such, he was dropped from the team in 2017, and will return after he completes his final season for FEU.
“There’s a ruling in the UAAP that if a player played in the PFL, he wouldn’t be able to play for his school. But before that rule happened, in the last season of the UFL, Audie was already performing well for Kaya,” explained Marcaida. “With his addition to the B Team, it really helped a lot. He’s a young kid, but with lots of potential. Technically he’s good, and also when it comes to physicality he’s also good. He’s got the height, and the potential. I’m really looking forward to after the UAAP, and watching the young ones play.”
“Since high school pa kami nasa FEU, dun kami lalong gumaling. So parang pasasalamat narin, para makabawi ako sa mga tinuro sa akin,” said Audie on his desire to play out his last year for his school. He also expressed gratitude for Kaya’s patience with his situation.
(“We’ve been playing with FEU since high school, it’s where we got even better. So, it’s a thank you to them, so I can repay what they’ve taught me.”)
“Blessing na nabigyan pa ko ng chance ulit na maglaro dito. Thankful ako na binantayan ako ng Kaya hanggang sa last season ko sa UAAP,” he said.
(“It’s a blessing that I’ve been given the chance to play here again. I’m thankful that Kaya looked after me until my final season in the UAAP.”
“Napaka-exciting, napakasaya kasi sa PFL napakalakas ng mga team. Sa First Team iba yung level kaysa sa UAAP, sa amateur level. May halong excitement, at kaba dahil bata pa ako. Sumusunod lang ako sa mga veteran na magagaling din.”
(“It’s very exciting, I’m delighted because the teams in the PFL are so strong. Compared to the UAAP, at the amateur level, the First Team is a different level. There’s excitement, but also a bit of nervousness because, I’m still young. I just follow the veterans that are also really good.”)
His inclusion to the lineup later this year will mean linking up with his brother Michael once again, who he has played alongside for most of his career.
“Syempre masaya kasi nandito kami nagbabantayan sa isa’t isa. Nagtuturuan din kung may kulang yung isa.”
(“Of course I’m happy because we’re here together looking out for one another. We also teach one another if one is lacking.”)
Asked to describe his own playing style, Audie was a bit hesitant. “Yung sa akin lang naman, long passes, makisabay lang, body-body. Panoorin nalang para mas exciting, kaysa sabihin ko lang,” he laughed.
(“For me, I’m about long passes, matching the opponent, bodying up. It’ll be more exciting if they watch me play, instead of me just talking about it.”)