A Future PHL Azkal: Javier Jacutin Mariona

Nov 4, 2011

by Mike Banos

What does the future hold for Philippine football and the Azkals?

Still euphoric over its 2-0 victory over the Mongolia Blue Wolves, the Philippine Azkals are looking no further than the second leg of their scheduled Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in Ulan Bator in March.

An ocean away, a six-year old soccer prodigy is already quite sure he’s joining the Azkals someday, provided Real Madrid gives him some time off to join the nationals.

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At play in the fields of the Lord: The future PHL Azkal Javier Jacutin Mariona.

Javier Jacutin Mariona is the son of former Philippine Junior Tennis #1 Marisue Balinado-Jacutin of Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines and Rodrigo Javier Mariona, son of El Salvador football great Salvador Mariona.

Although he’s too young to play competitive soccer, he has been accepted as a member of the Mountain View/Los Altos Academy Atomics Under-8 soccer team. In the final scrimmage of a clinic where he was taught the fundamentals of the game, he scored six of the eight goals made by his team, with one assist to boot!

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Javier Jacutin Mariona plays under the watchful eyes of Atomics Coach Cris Conroy.

“Javier stands out among his peers because of his energy,” Marisue noted. “Because of his excess energy, he already broke his arm when he was 4. My husband decided to put him into sports to burn off some of that and sure enough he played soccer. He showed signs of great potential even at a very young age. I guess you can say it runs in the blood.”

And what a bloodline it is. Rodrigo’s father Salvador is a soccer legend in El Salvador. At the age of 26, he represented his country at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico where they played Mexico, the Soviet Union and Belgium in Group 1.

“He’s like Manny Pacquiao in his country, a legend,” Marisue said.

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Salvador Mariona in his heyday (left) and with the immortal Pele (right).

Salvador Mariona played for great clubs including Atlante, Alianza F.C. and Platense Zacatecoluca retiring in 1977 to become a coach. He took over as Chief Executive of Alianza in 2005. Alianza is one of the most popular and successful clubs in El Salvador. It plays in the Primera Division, the highest tier league in the country. It is the first Central American and Salvadoran club to win the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, one of only three Salvadoran teams to have done so to date.

Javier’s dad Rodrigo Javier Mariona was a member of the El Salvador U-21 National Team which played in Canada. He had a fruitful career as a junior and college varsity player and was named an All-American in 2003-2004. He was drafted by the professional indoor soccer team Kansas City Comets but decided instead to proceed with his MBA. Today he still plays midfield with the San Francisco Vikings in San Francisco.

And not the least, mom Marisue was the former Philippine Junior No. 1 player, representing the country in tournaments abroad like the Federation Cup, World Youth Cup, Wimbledon, Canadian Open, Japan Open, SEA Games and even making it to the elimination round of the Australian Open Juniors. She attained her highest ITF ranking at #47 for singles and #33 in doubles. Recently, she was chosen the USTA’s Northern California Players of the Year for Mixed Open Doubles with her partner Pablo Schurig.

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USTA Norcal #1 Mixed Doubles Team Marisue Balinado-Jacutin with partner Pablo Schurig.

But back to the future of Philippine football. Javier started playing when he was 4 and learned the game from the KIDZ Love Soccer Clinic in Belmont and Los Altos, California. He attends Almond Elementary School and plays for the MVLA Atomics in the 8-Under League.

“Most of the team members are at least two years older than him but because of his skills and passion for the sport, the coach took him under his wing and made him the youngest member of the squad,” Marisue said. “Although he’s too young to play competitive soccer, at least he’s already training at the best league in his area for when he turns eight, he can compete at a higher level.”

Already, the future Azkal trains three time a week for an hour and a half and four hours on Saturdays. He also plays tennis twice a week (recently attended Todd Martin’s tennis clinic) and T-Ball (or Tee Ball) a children’s sport based on baseball.

“It’s important for us to give him options so he can decide what sport he wants to play in the future,” Marisue said.

Javier’s coach Cris Conroy is excited about his prized ward because of the love he has for the game. “These days, parents often forget that a child will more likely succeed in sports if they love the game,” he noted.

The Marionas believe Javier is on the on the right track and are excited that he loves the sport a lot. If only he could sleep on the field, he would, and he wears his football jerseys everywhere.

Cousin Alejandro Batt gives Javier a few tips in the backyard.

Javier favorite team is Real Madrid and hope’s to be a part of their squad someday. His idol is Alejandro Batt, his 13-year old cousin, son of Rodrigo’s sister Flori Batt. Alejandro was invited to join the boot camp of the professional Dutch team De Graafshap of the Dutch top league Eredivisie last November and has won a championship with the Solar Soccer Club in Dallas, Texas. He also idolizes Leonel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when he saw them play during Real Madrid and Barcelona’s visits in the bay.

And of course, Javier is enjoying Team Azkals Highlights/Goals on YouTube.

“We are all glad that Filipinos are slowly appreciating the beautiful game of soccer because it is passionately followed by millions, if not billions, of fans around the globe,” Marisue said. “We are hoping that Javier can represent the Philippines one day and compete in the World Cup just like his paternal grandfather represented El Salvador.”

Like many tennis players and fans around the world, Marisue excitedly awaits the future tennis careers of Jaden Gil and Jaz Elle, children of pro tennis’ “Golden Couple” Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s children, both former World No. 1’s in their heyday.

But Philippine football and the Azkals need not wait any longer nor look any further. Javier Jacutin Mariona is coming soon and all Pinoys the world over need is a little more patience while he grows up.

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The Marionas: Dad Rodrigo Javier with Mom Marisue, ballerina Isabella Sue and future Azkal Javier.

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