How Dubai helped young Filipino footballer's dream to play in Europe

Less than a year after joining Dubai’s Al Ittifaq Football Club, he managed to sign a deal with Spanish club Deportivo Llosetense


Angel Tesorero

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Tue 15 Aug 2023, 6:14 PM

Last updated: Tue 15 Aug 2023, 9:15 PM

Coming from a basketball-crazy country, Shane Neil Clemente, 20, moved to Dubai a year ago to hone his skills in football, a sport that is still at its nascent stage in the Philippines.

He possessed the talent and determination but he lacked the technical skills to play in the big league. But that changed in less than a year after playing in the UAE.

With a strong support system, better playing environment and coaches, Clemente improved by leaps and bounds as a player. In fact, in less than a year after joining Dubai’s Al Ittifaq Football Club, he managed to sign a deal with Spanish club Deportivo Llosetense – based in Lloseta, Majorca.

How did it happen? “When I got here, I was able to play with multiple nationalities – Africans, Arabs, Europeans and South Americans. One of the challenges for me when I first came here was when my coach told me that I got the talent but lacked the technical side,” Clemente told Khaleej Times.

“I had to face the truth; but with the help of my older brother, Bryan, he got me a personal trainer. After four months of consistent weekly trainings, I became stronger and more knowledgeable in football. Before, I only played for 15 minutes; but now, I can play full 90 minutes on the field,” he added.

Re-start in Dubai

Perseverance was at core of Clemente’s foundation as an athlete. “Before coming to Dubai, I’ve got rejected several times by football clubs, high schools and Philippine national team selections. But I kept pushing and my mindset was clear – my time will come,” he underlined.

“I just told my kuya (older brother/ Bryan) that I wanted to move out of the Philippines to look for opportunities abroad. So, he planned out things for me and brought me to Dubai. I can never forget his advice. He said: 'Always keep your head up because every day is an opportunity to get better. Forget everything about what happened to you in the Philippines and start a new football career here in Dubai',” Clemente poignantly shared.

He continued: “The UAE is a football-loving country. When I came here, my kuya took me to a Filipino football community called Pinoy FC-Dubai, whose members were mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao regions. We played as early as 5am on weekends. Then I saw a post on Instagram about tryouts for Al-Ittifaq FC Division II and I got in.”

The coach at Al-Ittifaq changed Clemente’s playing positing from forward (in the Philippines) to fullback, a wide defender who plays on either side of a back four. That switch helped Clemente discover his full potential as a footballer. “That move made me a well-rounded player. Before I was running only half the pitch, but as full back I cover the entire length of the field,” Clemente said.

Sojourn in Spain

Clemente left for Spain first week of August to join his team in Majorca. On Tuesday, Bryan told Khaleej Times that his brother played his first game in Spain for the under-22 tournament. Their team lost 1-0 but Clemente made a good impression with his clinical passes and overall performance on the field which he covered for the entire 90 minutes.

Clemente’s goal now is to make a fine impression with his U-22 team then move to the senior level. He said: “As a visiting footballer, I know I must be able to adapt quickly. Spain is one of the top footballing countries in the world and I’m very happy and enthusiastic to be here.”

Clemente, who stands 5’4” counts among his football idols Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, and, of course, Lionel Messi. “They are really not tall but when you see them play it’s like football is an art for them,” he noted, adding: “While I’m here in Spain, I will further hone my football fundamentals – make nifty pass and create space for my teammates. I’m sure, I can adapt quickly with help from my team and the coaching staff.”

Next goal

After his stint in Spain, Clemente said he will go for trial in Europe, Middle East or US. “My ultimate goal is to play in the top leagues – whether in Europe, US, or the Middle East, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I will take it one step at time – but I will make sure that I will reach my goal,” he promised.

He added: “I came to Dubai with a goal to rebuild myself – and I’m very thankful to the city, my Filipino community and brother for the great opportunity. They helped me focused on my development and now I’m seeing a great future.”


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