Laos goal sweetens Simone Rota’s journey
HITHADHOO, Maldives—Simone Rota wanted to trace his roots in the Philippines when he decided to pack his bags for Manila and leave Italy last January.
Little did he know that the decision will eventually prove crucial for the country’s hopes to nail a first major title in the AFC Challenge Cup here.
With the Philippines’ semifinal hopes hanging by a thread, the 29-year-old rightback scored his first international goal that helped lift the Azkals to a 2-0 victory over long-time conqueror Laos Thursday night in Group B play at Hithadhoo Stadium here.
While Rota’s goal—a thunderous half volley inside the penalty area—put the Azkals on their way to victory, his journey back to the country where he was born is every bit as compelling.
An orphan, Rota was adopted by a taxi-driving Italian couple Maurizio and Marilena Rota. A longing to see and experience life in the Philippines convinced Rota to come home early this year.
It also did not hurt that he had the chance to continue playing football in Manila, after stints in the lower leagues in Italy as well as in Switzerland.
Rota’s goal reverberated in the Philippines because of its importance to the Azkals’ bid.
But perhaps the loudest cheers Thursday night would be in the Buklod Kalinga in Parañaque, which has served as the player’s home since he arrived in Manila. The civic work that Buklod conducts takes much of Rota’s time.
A regular day for Rota would usually start at 4 a.m. when he helps prepare food for the children who benefit from the outreach program of Buklod, before training with his United Football League club, Stallion. Rota said he’s dedicating the goal to his family, as well as the kids of Buklod Kalinga.
Rota considers Sister May Memorial, who runs Buklod, as his mother in the Philippines.
“It’s for my father and my mother, sister and Sister May and the kids there,” said Rota.