Dubai: When 21-year-old Shane Neil Clemente moved to the UAE from the Philippines a year ago, all he hoped for was his passion for football to be fuelled by the immense amount of opportunities this country has to offer. Now, the aspiring Filipino footballer’s training in Dubai has not only prepped him to pursue his dream of playing the sport professionally, it got him an official club offer to play in Spain in the coming weeks.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s the biggest step in my career so far,” Shane, who will be joining Majorca-based Spanish football team Club Deportivo Llosetense, told Gulf News. “I will have the opportunity to play with the club for a full season and will be under observation. If I prove my worth, I will be offered a contract,” he added.
It all began when Shane’s brother Bryan Clemente moved to Dubai five years ago. Knowing very well his brother had the passion and talent but had minimal exposure back home in the basketball-dominant Philippines, he decided to shift Shane to Dubai in search of better opportunities.
Despite initial few hiccups, Shane managed to seal an opportunity with UAE’s Al Ittifaq Football Club, and plays as defending fullback for the second division team. During his time at the club, he showcased his talent that allowed him to develop as a player, preparing him for bigger challenges ahead.
“Moving here to Dubai from the Philippines was one the best decisions I made. Playing with different nationalities and their physical attributes, it was a big challenge for me as a player. I needed to work on my physicality during my stay here by doing individual gym sessions and ball work with my coach — who played a big role in my performance on and off the pitch.
“I really enjoyed the experience of playing in the UAE because of the competitiveness of the clubs, as well as the players. The diversity is also what I liked here: I was able to play with Arabs, Africans, Europeans, and Americans. They all have great qualities on and off the pitch, and this made me a better player. I’ve learnt a lot from them,” Shane added.
Ever since his childhood, Shane’s dedication for football was well nurtured by a supportive family back home, for which he is ever grateful. His passion was further fuelled when he started earning recognition in the local circuit, playing for the clubs there. At just 10 years old, he also earned a dream trip to the UK when he was part of the British Council-sponsored Philippine Under-11 boys football team.
“I come from a working-class family. I am the youngest of my five siblings. My family introduced me to football when I was eight and I just fell in love with the beautiful game. My family supported me along the way and have taken me to practice every day, travelling for 2-3 hours from my city to another city. I can’t thank them enough,” said Shane, who dreams of playing in world’s top leagues in the future.
“My ultimate goal is to play in the top leagues, whether it’s in Europe, the Middle East, America, or Asia. We’ll take it one step at a time. I know that the people working behind the scenes will help me reach my goal. I really want to have a stable career, represent my country, and financially provide for my family. I also want to be an advocate in my country, and inspire kids and aspiring football players to reach their dreams,” he added.