From 'kalakal' girl to UAAP football champion: How Rebosura overcame the odds

Levi Joshua Verora Jr.

Posted at May 25 2023 04:35 PM

FEU newcomer Regine Rebosura. UAAP media bureau
FEU newcomer Regine Rebosura. UAAP media bureau

MANILA – For newcomer Regine Rebosura, Far Eastern University’s UAAP Season 85 women’s football championship is worth celebrating beyond the field, as it also symbolizes how she has overcome odds and setbacks in her life.

More than scoring both goals in a 2-1 after extra time win which dethroned De La Salle University and gave FEU the football golden treble, Rebosura’s struggles to even make it to the premier stage of collegiate level sports competition made the hard-fought championship sweeter.

Growing up in Payatas, Quezon City, the midfielder lived an underprivileged life, with odds not favoring her to succeed. The fifth of six siblings, Rebosura was the daughter of a garbage collector and a maintenance lady.

She did not have the luxuries she is enjoying now, such as having complete game equipment from shin guards to cleats, playing in a quality venue like the Rizal Memorial Stadium, nor eating a post-recovery meal.

Back then, she did not even have decent clothes nor footwear; when the going got tough, her parents had to go extreme lengths to fill their stomachs.

“Minsan, ‘yung kinakain lang namin kapag wala kaming pagkain, ‘yung mga binibigay lang sa papa kong natitirang pagkain sa restaurant,” Rebosura shared. “Inuuwi ng papa ko at ‘yun ang kinakain namin. Uulamin namin ‘yun sa umaga hanggang gabi.”

It was in the early 2010s when Rebosura got introduced to football, when British national Roy Moore started the Fairplay for All Foundation, a non-profit organization that aimed to “level the playing field” by providing opportunities for the underprivileged.

Being from the Great Britain, Moore turned to football to give then children like Rebosura a way to distract themselves from the harsh realities of poverty.

“Noong bata pa ako, bago ako sumali diyan, tambay lang ako eh, sa daan lang. Nakita ko lang si Coach Roy na nag-i-invite ng mga kids para mag-training sa covered court, kaya tinry ko, since wala naman akong masyadong ginagawa sa amin,” Rebosura said.

From being a daily distraction, Rebosura soon realized how the sport could become her and her family’s ticket out of poverty.

“Sumali po ako sa training ni Coach Roy. Sobrang nag-e-enjoy kasi ako doon. Sabay-sabay ‘yung mga girls sumali doon, dahil wala kaming ginagawa,” she continued.

“Naisip ko rin na baka ito na ‘yung chance para makatulong ako sa parents ko, na baka may dumating na opportunity. Kahit hindi pa gaanong kakilala ang football dati, nag-try na ako kasi baka makapasok ako sa mga university dahil sa pagfo-football.”

Moore’s space of choice was a vacant cement basketball court, where he gathered close to 100 children to play futsal.

The children of Payatas all played with just slippers and a football. There were no intricate pieces of equipment. The goals were likewise just marked using slippers. If a ball went in, it would be counted as a goal. Otherwise, it was ruled wide.

“Nag-e-enjoy naman kami. Nawawala ‘yung stress namin kapag nag-enjoy na kami sa laro. Noong bata pa kami, hindi pa namin iniisip masyado ang problema, basta mag-enjoy lang nang mag-enjoy hanggang matapos ang araw, hanggang maubos ang energy,” Rebosura recalled.

If it wasn’t for Fairplay for All, Rebosura would have kept helping her parents to make ends meet.

“Noong wala pa ‘yung Fairplay, ‘yung trabaho lang ng papa ko, garbage collector lang. Nangangalakal lang rin ako dati, namumulot lang ako ng bote sa daan,” she said.

In 2014, Lady Booters head coach Let Dimzon, then the youth national team mentor, met Rebosura. Moore had urged the teenager to try out for the Philippine team, and from there, Dimzon and Rebosura’s paths crossed.

“She tried out for the under-14 national team. Nag-start siya mag training sa akin. 2015 ko siya nakuha for the U14 national team. Nakikita ko na siya sa Payatas. She’s been starting for us. She played in the midfield,” Dimzon said.

At the time, what Rebosura lacked in technical skills, she made up for hard work and sheer determination.

“Although marami pa siyang lapses or weaknesses na kailangan i-develop, nakikita mo ‘yung determination ng bata. It stands out, kahit rookie pa lang siya. Malaking transition sa kanya para maglaro ng football from futsal,” Dimzon said of Rebosura.

Ever since knowing how to play football, Rebosura turned it into her ticket to a better life.

“Hindi ko sinasayang ‘yung mga opportunity na dumadating sa akin. Gina-grab ko ‘yun and doon ako na-discover ni Coach Let,” Rebosura said.

Since her national team stint, Rebosura has played for the youth teams of Kaya FC and Sugod Malaya. She also represented the country in the 2018 Street Child World Cup in Russia.

In 2019, Rebosura graduated from Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma High School in Quezon City. She would eventually take Exercise and Sports Sciences in the Morayta-based school in 2021.

Dimzon saw Rebosura’s potential to control the midfield and to attack when needed. Taking the youngster under her wing, Dimzon slowly guided Rebosura through the ropes to turn her into one of the key cogs of FEU during their Season 85 campaign.

“Very challenging dahil at the start, ‘yung fitness level mo. Iba ‘yung sa small-sided game sa 11-a-side. Slowly, na-build ang stamina niya and ‘yung understanding niya ng game,” the tactician said.

“With regards to her technique, kaya niya lumabas and mag deliver every time, which is good. Nag-a-adjust siya.”

Rebosura would eventually win the Season 85 Rookie of the Year and Best Midfielder awards.

In the tightly-contested finale, Rebosura scored the gold and green’s opening goal off a corner set piece.

“‘Yung first goal, walang nagma-mark sa akin kaya diniskartehan ko. Ang sabi lang sa akin, nasa keeper dapat ako, sa harap ng keeper, para nililito ko ‘yung keeper,” she said.

“Sa likod lang ako ng keeper pumuwesto, nag-a-abang lang ako ng bola, hanggang sa naka-goal ako. ‘Yung corner kick ng kasama ko, alam kong lalampas ng near post kaya inabangan ko. Then, napunta sa akin, kaya kinick ko, diretso papuntang goal line.”

Shai del Campo equalized late for La Salle in the waning minutes of regulation, pushing the winner-take-all match to extra time.

There, Rebosura struck again from an attacking situation, making sure FEU won the title.

"Pinasa kay winger namin, pinasa sa (attacking midfielder) namin, nag-a-abang lang talaga ako sa gilid, dahil walang nagma-mark sa akin, kung saan lang ‘yung line ng bola, kaya inunahan ko lang and tumakbo ako papuntang goal line,” she explained.

From a rebound off an initial save by La Salle keeper Alexandra Gumilao, Rebosura flicked the ball home in the 118th minute to seal the deal.

“Sobrang kinabahan ako noon, nasa harap na ako ng goal line, pero na-shock ako dahil ilang minutes na lang ‘yung natitira, and ‘yun na ‘yung magpapanalo sa amin kung maka-goal pa ako ng isa,” she said. “Kaya inisip ko, kinailangan ko mag-score. Kaya sinubukan ko lang talaga.”

FEU would celebrate its win that night. Rebosura and her teammates partied, danced, and ate.

The 21-year-old breadwinner footballer made sure to give back right away too. The next day after the Lady Booters won the title, Rebosura returned to Quezon City.

Being a student-athlete, Rebosura does not often get chances to be with her family. But she doesn’t mind the homesickness.

“Simula nang pumasok ako sa FEU, expected ko na talaga na mag-isa na lang ako or ma-ho-homesick ako. Pero kung gusto ko magtagal sa FEU, dapat masanay ako. Kung may problema naman ako, lagi kong tinatawagan ang family ko,” she said.

After all she’s been through in life, being away from her loved ones is a piece of cake for Rebosura. Carving a reputable football career comes secondary too.

While away from her family, Rebosura keep striving to ensure not a member eats from other’s leftovers ever again.

“Sila ang nagpapalakas sa akin palagi. Siyempre, part ng life ‘yan, kailangan lumaban ka sa pagsubok na pinagdadaanan mo. Marami na akong pinagdaanan simula ng bata pa ako, kaya hindi ko kailangan sumuko. Sa mga experiences ko pa lang, marami na.”


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