GIVEN the opportunity to further his studies and develop his game abroad, Philippine youth football standout Samuel Reuben Wilhelm Chavez is out to make the most of it.

Currently in the United States as a new recruit of the men’s soccer team of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, Chavez said he is determined to succeed in the next phase of his journey in life and in the sport.

Eighteen-year-old Chavez’s football journey began in his hometown of Lianga in Surigao del Sur.

He worked on his game and earned a spot in the football program of San Beda University High School. While with the Red Booters, he won National Collegiate Athletic Association championships from 2016 to 2018. He also got to represent the province of Rizal in the Palarong Pambansa.

Those paved the way for his stints in the U-18 and U-19 national squads that saw action in the AFF Championships in 2018 and 2019, in Indonesia, and Vietnam, respectively.

In 2019, he was handpicked for the U-18 all-star Southeast Asian selection team that vied for the JapaFunCup. The left winger was also a player of Mendiola FC 1991’s U-19 team that reached the 2019 Youth Football League finals.

To earn a scholarship in the US, Chavez shared that it took a lot of hard work and patience on his part just as he said his coaches and mentors helped him in his pursuit.

“The task was very challenging, but I did not lose hope. I wanted to use football to get a good education and be able to better the quality of life of both myself and my family,” he said.

With Judson University, Chavez is now part of a team which has won multiple titles in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) and National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

He hopes that he gets to do his share in the continued success of the Eagles and at the same time grow as a player.

“Many college coaches in the US were interested in Samuel but Judson (University) was the most persistent (in getting him),” said Niquie Angelo, the athlete’s recruitment mentor who described Chavez as “very hard-working” and “focused.”

It is the same confidence that those who handled him here at home moved to highlight.

“In my opinion, Samuel’s strengths are his mental strength and his ability to pass, shoot, cross, and judge situations from the left. I have confidence about his play,” Reiji Hirata, Philippine Football Federation Head of Youth Development, for his part, said.

Chavez, who is taking up Sports Management at Judson, said that while he is happy where he is right now, much still needs to be done if he is to achieve his goals.

“I am still far from what I want to achieve, but I will be working hard to reach my goals of completing my education and playing at the professional level. Eventually, I want to return to the Philippines to contribute to the growth of the sport,” he said. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo