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Tiebreaker Times


Rookie goalkeeper James symbolizes Blue Eagles’ bright future

Kenneth James has been one of the revelations for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in this UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament. While fellow rookies Mashu Yoshioka and Javier Ocampo Gayoso may have gotten the spotlight more, James’ rise in becoming the Blue Eagles’ starting goalkeeper shouldn’t be discounted at all. Despite the fact that clean sheets are rare to come by for the Blue Eagles this season, James has caught the eye with his positional sense and command of his penalty box.

Parang binigyan lang ako ni coach (JP Merida) ng chance”, James said while admitting he wasn’t perfectly healthy in Ateneo’s past few games. “Mawawala yan kasi pag naglalaro ka, yung adrenaline pushes me up to play the game.

Aside from perhaps strikers, goalkeepers are probably the players on the pitch who are most pressured to perform well. That thinking, though, doesn’t bother James even if this season was his rookie year. “Since first year ako parang nagbibigay siya ng challenge na ‘Huy, kalaban ko third year, senior, maraming experience.’ Parang hindi ako magpapatalo, dapat ako laging mag-start para bibigyan ko ng challenge sarili ko na magaling itong kalabang ito’, bibigyan ko ng mas maraming effort para bumantay sa kanya o mas maganda umangat sa kanya.

That’s not too say James didn’t feel any adjustment period between the sticks for the Blue Eagles. “Maraming pressure. Since first year in college, parang ang hirap mag-adjust from high school football to college [football]. Kasi yung high school football parang petiks lang eh tapos pagdating dito sa college bugbugan. Kung talo iyakan pero kung panalo parang nanalo ka na ng national elections eh”, he explained.

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James, who is taking up Economics, hopes to man Ateneo’s goal for as long as he is eligible to do so providing he passes his subjects. Normally, goalkeepers who are teammates don’t tend to be friendly with one another. James, however, laughed off those concerns between him and the guy he displaced, JP Oracion. “Tropa ko yan. Every training, tawanan. Yun lang ginagawa namin sa training, tawanan lang. Good vibes lagi.

Don Bosco Technical Institute of Makati was James’ high school before he entered Ateneo. These days in the UAAP, it’s the head coach who scouts and recruits players for his or her team. In contrast, James had a different experience.“Kasi yung club ko, Agila MSA. Maraming mga Atenista diyan tapos sabi daw nila maganda raw yung pinapakita ko sa high school club tapos maganda raw yung pinapakita ko sa club football. Marami akong kilala diyan before pumasok ako rito tulad ni Paolo Alilam, Julian Roxas. Parang sila yung nagsabi kay Coach JP na, ‘kunin niyo ito. Magaling ito.’ Yan yung dahil bakit ako napunta dito”, he narrated. 

With Ateneo securing a slot in this season’s Final Four, it is indeed safe to say that James has had a good rookie year. He noted that playing for Ateneo in the UAAP was a personal achievement in itself. “Kasi sa batch namin sa high school, ako na lang yung natirang parang sineryoso ang football. So parang ako yung nag stand-out sa batch namin.

Merida has proven that he didn’t mind starting Ateneo’s rookies over their more senior teammates if the need arose. James and his fellow rookies have proven that they belonged in the UAAP. The man himself thought so as well. “Para sa akin it’s been a good first season for me and for the guys, for the rookies. I think mas lalo magiging solid yung pakikisama for the next season and for other seasons to come na magiging contender talaga Ateneo for the Final Four and for the championship.

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In the end, Ateneo hopes to do their all and beat their archrivals De La Salle University come Thursday afternoon for them to reach the Final. Whatever happens and grades willing, James should be expected to be the Blue Eagles’ starting goalkeeper for years to come.

Written By

Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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