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An Artist and a Football Player

Allen came to see me yesterday. Well, not exactly off the plane after a 20-hour flight from Vienna but… close enough…

He’s like that, this former player of mine. He’s never one to feel embarrassed about letting you know that your friendship is valued.

I got an Esprit cologne off him as a pasalubong. I guess he sensed my lack of enthusiasm, so I had to reassure him that anything he brought me would be valued.

I did warn him last week by IM that I am not particularly fond of scents. On others as well as on me.

A strange mix, this former player of mine. Born in Vienna of Batangueño parentage, raised in Lipa. Went back to Austria after high school with the rest of his family, where they have all settled.

And while something of a sophisticate now – or so he wishes! – effortlessly mixing good English with Tagalog, accentuating his European-ness with the occasional “Ja! Ja!” and sporting shaved eyebrows as is the way of the Metro – his word, not mine – he will always be, to me, this so-called Vienna-born kid who was strangely dark-skinned, spoke with a mortifyingly thick Batangueño accent and who found great pleasure in pouring his morning coffee into his plate of freshly fried sinangag. Yuk!!!

Back in the late nineties, I got a call one night from a co-worker who headed the school delegation to an inter-scholastic athletic competition in the region. He nervously told me over the phone that the Department of Education’s Screening Committee would not wave Allen through because his birth certificate was in German!

Susmaryosep! You can imagine just what sort of people they have at the department. My word, but the proof of citizenship was right there before their eyes. Sa itim na iyon!

In fairness, the mild European sun has been good to Allen, whose skin now glows golden unlike the dark brown of before. Back in his high school days, he also probably spent his spare time roaming the streets and the luoban, not to mention spend hours upon hours on the football field honing his football skills.

And he was excellent! An artist on the field as he was off it – he played the piano adroitly – football was a self-expression, a way to do things with style! Though smallish in stature as a high school kid, he had this capability to see passing angles few other players could. It was always a joy to watch him unlock opposing defenses with passes – be they long or short – nobody else saw possible.

Of course, the artist’s temperament was something I could have done without. He was wont to be as excited about nicking plastic signs off doors as he was about spraying Gerrard-like long passes all over the pitch.

That mischief cost all of us three months of his playing time…

That’s all in the past now, Allen likes to tell me. It looks that way to me, too. The boy has cleaned up his act, finished college and now has a steady job.

He likes to point out to me that I should be proud not only of him but of his teammates as well, many of whom, he points out, have become successful in their lives. A bit too soon, perhaps, to be using that word successful…

But yes, indeed, I am proud of all the lads. Even Allen’s kumpareng putik – i.e. partner-in-crime – he of the equally prodigious talent, has become a bit of a hit at Teletech…

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