Meet the latest Brit-Fil in PH football
LONDON - Rising soccer star Curt Dizon made history in April when he scored his first international goal at his first match with Azkals, the Philippine national football team, a dream come true for the young player.
The British Filipino midfielder scored his momentous goal at a FIFA International friendly match against Nepal in Doha, Qatar, where the Philippine team won 3-0, their first victory under new coach Thomas Dooley.
"I was really nervous coming into the game," he told ABS-CBN Europe. "I remember walking out of the tunnel and seeing all the fans, it really took me back a bit. But as soon as I got a touch of the ball I felt at home and was over the moon when I scored. It was an amazing feeling, one that I will cherish and keep with me for the rest of my life."
It was the culmination of all the hard work that led him to that point. And, at only 20 years old, he has already spent 18 years of his life dedicated to the beautiful game.
"The funny thing is that when I was little my dad tried giving me a basketball, but I’d always put it on the floor and start kicking it with my left foot, so that’s how I really started. My dad used to take me to the park and we’d just a kick a ball for hours till I wanted to go home. And it didn’t even stop there: I used to kick a small ball around the house till I drove my mom crazy. I love football," he said.
Born and raised in London, England, Dizon grew up with a nation passionate about football. And after kicking around with his dad from the age of three, he hasn’t let go of the ball since.
"I watched a lot of football on TV when I was young, so I guess that had a positive impact for my love of the game. I apparently cried when Manchester United didn’t make it through the group stages, pretty sad when you think about it now. But that’s really how I got into football," he recalled.
The football player showed a lot of sporting potential from a young age, from the moment he started competing at seven with a children’s Sunday league at local club Old Isleworthians in Middlesex.
At 11, he joined Magic FC and played in the Hammersmith and Fulham London League, where his team won for two years in a row, and Dizon touted as "Player of the Year" in both seasons.
He moved on to Brunswick FC at 13, also winning the Harrow and Middlesex League, where he scored a total of 19 goals in the 2006/07 season alone. The team also won the Arsenal International tournament, scoring Dizon the accolade “Player of the Year” once again.
At 16, while studying English Literature and Sports Science, he trained at Queens Football Academy under a two-year scholarship. He helped the school’s team reach the final of National Cup for the first time, which also led him to play at the St. Molten Men’s League Premier Division.
Dizon then spent time playing football in Spain, doing trials for Leganes FC and landing his first professional contract with its sister club, Segovia FC. He was 19 years old.
In December 2013, he was tapped by Filipino team Union Internacional Manila, which launched his football career in the Philippines. And in March 2014, he decided to move to another local team, Global FC, during the transfer window.
Finally in April 2014, he made it to the top of Philippine football by being called to play for the Azkals at an international friendly match in Doha.
"It’s a massive honor to play for your country so I’m obviously extremely happy and excited to be a part of the national team," he said.
"You could already see how quickly the sport has developed in the Philippines and how popular it’s becoming, even just the support of the national team it’s all really amazing. I don’t see why football won’t continue to grow as a sport and gain even more popularity in the Philippines."
Dizon follows in the footsteps of fellow British Filipinos who have already made a mark in the local football scene, from goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, to brothers James and Philip Younghusband.
Sporting talent also runs in his own family, which includes his great grandfather Cati Dizon, an Olympian; his grandfather Carmelito Dizon, a basketball player; and his very own father, Cris Dizon, who is "very good" in sports like football, basketball and tennis.
"It’s been a long road to get where he is," his father said, "to finally enjoy and get recognition for all his hard work and commitment to the game. And one he will embrace and also be happy about to now represent our country, and both his parents being proud Filipinos.”
For the young Dizon, his dreams of playing professional and international football has just begun. And although his foundations in England, his stint in Spain, and his burgeoning sporting career in the Philippines have already taken him this far, he still hopes there is plenty more ahead of him in the future.
"I’m just looking to enjoy my football," he said, "and learn as much as I can so I can improve as a player. Hopefully I can continue to be a part of the national team, learn from Coach Dooley as well as from Coach Leigh Mason at Global FC, and take in all the experience that I can gather. I’d like to play in Europe especially England again one day. That is definitely one of my dreams so I guess that is something I hope to achieve in the future, and also to keep representing my country as it’s the pinnacle of any player’s career."
Dizon is currently based in Manila with Global FC, and is also a call up player for the Philippine national football team, Azkals.