In April 2012, I published my feature on Juan Luis “Juani” Guirado. It was an enthralling experience to hear and write about his life story—yes, Capitán Tsubasa from the animated series Oliver y Benji inspired him when he was eight years old—and narrate his football career. Albeit in his 30s, he was one of the newest additions to the Philippine national football team (Azkals) worthy of recognition and admiration. It was a great way to introduce him to the public as someone on the road to becoming a Philippine football legend, and four years and 38 caps later, he has inevitably become one in his own right.
Juani announced his retirement from the national team in March 2016, and now he will finally hang up his boots from playing football as well.
It has been an honor to meet Juani and work with him in the early days of my career and write about the first chapter of his early Philippine adventures. And now the closing chapter is likewise a privilege.
I sat down with Juani, and we looked back on his time here and how quickly it flew by. It’s undeniably been an enjoyable and successful ride for Juani. Not to worry, no need for Google Translate!
As a little boy, I dreamed of becoming a football player, and I am happy that I have lived and become one. I played in Spain for several years for different teams, and I am lucky that I was able to continue my career in the Philippines, share my experiences, and be part of your team. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have received—representing every Filipino in football and understanding Pinoy pride and showing it—but I know and feel that my time is up.
I have no regrets … I welcomed every opportunity I got and enjoyed it. I played for my country, and I played for Global and then Ceres. I participated in different tournaments here and abroad and went to places I have never been to. I even found Filipinos everywhere we went, and they reminded me of how proud I am to be one. Representing the Philippines—likewise, being team captain—has been a source of strength and pride. Wearing the armband was a responsibility that I held with excitement and pleasure. It gave me the strength and determination to lead my team and put them ahead. On my football journey, I learned so many things about the world, the sport, my country, and myself that have made me become a better person and player. I trained and worked as hard and as long as I could so I could play longer, but it has finally come to an end. My journey as a player has been a beautiful and incredible experience.
I have so many people to thank. The list will never end, but I am here today because of my family and friends. My cousin Rafa and my family know how thankful I am for everything. Their encouragement and support enabled me to pursue my dreams. No matter where they may be, my wife, Andrea, and my children, Daniel and Adriana, have been and always will be my inspiration. They kept me going as long as I can, but I am happy with my decision, and I look forward to being with my family again.
I also want to thank all of my teammates, coaches, managers, coaching staff, and everyone I had the opportunity to work with in my career. I will treasure our memories together and remember them dearly. Lastly, thank you to the fans and supporters who believed in me, watched me play, and supported me. Everyone I have met has become part of my family, and I am grateful.
I will miss everything and everyone. I hope people will continue to support Philippine football and believe that the future looks bright for the next generation. They too can achieve anything. Nothing is easy. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But even if we are falling, we can always find the strength in ourselves and in each other to stand up. Never give up. I never did.
Thank you. Maraming salamat. Muchas gracias. We will see each other again one day.
Inspired by his heartfelt message, I’d like to share my top 3 favorite quotes or lessons from my friend, brother, and hero, the only Juan who can be all three. He always looked after me and gave me sound advice, which just shows what kind of person he is.
Humility and friendship. Juani told me a story he once shared with the younger players. He was telling them that no player should ever think highly of himself, that he’s better than his teammates, because whether he likes it or not, he will need his teammates during the game. Playing football means playing alongside your teammates and enjoying the sport, the experience, and the things it entails—friendship and camaraderie.
The pitch is not a battlefield. When an opponent or teammate is down, there’s no reason you can’t help him. “Every time I see somebody on the floor, I go as fast as I can to help him. It doesn’t matter if he’s my teammate or not. We are humans. It’s not a war. After I help him stand up, I will fight against him again.” Juani values being competitive, but being competitive does not mean being cold and ruthless. The spirit of fair play and sportsmanship should never be sacrificed in our quest for glory and victory, and this applies to real life as well. When you get the chance to do the right thing, don’t ignore it.
Football is life. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a player—the sport teaches us valuable life lessons. “Football is beautiful because you always learn something whether you’re winning or losing. Some people think football is just a game, but it’s our life, our job, and our future. And it depends on our performance and determination.” In football, as in life, there is always a new lesson to learn and an opportunity to redeem yourself. And football, like life, requires determination and the ability to understand failure.
Thank you, Juani! I’m going to miss you.