Louis Clark, from Brighton, England, arrived in the Philippines in September 2014, and my first encounter with him was at the Plana Forma photo shoot. He looked like a different person then if you were to compare his present look. I later made fun of him for sporting a hippy-Wolverine-looking-for-weed appearance. At the shoot, he was quiet and reserved, more boring than I am, but things quickly escalated from gloom to bloom in a matter of weeks. It’s like he had an epiphany after seeing his hippy self in the mirror.
OK, I don’t know if it was my subtle insults or the three consecutive hat tricks that triggered it, but there was a transformation of sorts in Louis. Supporters, spectators, fans, and other teams started recognizing him. He piqued their curiosity, and he definitely left a good first impression, especially when he won the Golden Boot Award in the 2014 FA League Cup. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Two seasons and one AFC Cup later, I can say that Louis Clark distinguished himself as a player of guts and blood. He has passion, attitude, and blood hardwired into his character. Brave as a lion, he has a winning mentality that never allows himself to be bullied.
He is his worst enemy. He has the balls to strike and fight for what he thinks is right. The inextinguishable fire is there, and you can sense it. In football, you need self-confidence and a bit of nerve. Yes, I learned that from Sir Alex Ferguson’s book. He also said that you shouldn’t be afraid to express yourself and be yourself, especially where it matters the most—at games and on the field with your teammates.
Off the pitch, he’s just as forthright, but that’s where I got to know him better. He is comical and entertaining. He is one of my free sources of entertainment.
He can laugh at himself and turn a joke back on himself. I started giving him all these stupid nicknames—Sassy Slut, Dirty Drag Queen, the Walking Dead, White and Pasty, Louislut, Brienne of Tarth, and the most used one, Mad Maxxx—none of which made sense to him or to anyone. But he was cool with any insult or sarcastic remark I hurled at him. One time, our friend brought a massive cardboard cutout of his face to a game, and it was the icing on the cake. I ROFL’d for a week. Sadly, the photo never went viral, but I teased him until I got tired. It’s amusing how he never got tired of me and my stupid and repetitive antics!
Obviously, he is all kinds of fun, but there is one thing about the sparky lad from Brighton that stands out—his compassion and kindheartedness.
As soon as his first month here, he did something that amazed me. At one of our games, the UFL staff told me Louis Clark’s friends were waiting at the entrance for complimentary tickets. I was so confused. He had just arrived, and he has friends already. It takes me about a year (or two) to befriend someone! As it turned out, his friends were this cab driver and his family. Apparently, Louis invited them to watch the game. This happened a lot. He would invite different people to our games, from fans to parents and kids from the academy, and he never failed to thank them for their support.
In his second month, we visited the Kythe kids at the National Children’s Hospital, and he moved me to bits. The player I make fun of every day is actually good-natured and warmhearted. I thought it was a onetime thing, but I was wrong.
His heart is his engine. He would offer help to a stranger. He would never let you put anyone down. He would never make you feel any different. He would always light up like a Christmas tree when he saw kids, especially street kids in poor neighborhoods. These moments always put things into perspective for me.
When it comes to Louis, he doesn’t let opinions, upbringing, background, or differences get in the way of meeting people, experiencing things, and speaking his mind. He doesn’t wait for the right time or the right thing to say or do. He is someone who shows respect, concern, and empathy while being straightforward. After all, it’s a virtue to be straightforward about yourself. But at the end of the day, I think it’s his good heart (and the banter) that I will remember forever. It’s what makes him a real champion.
Don’t let your spark die, Clark! Everyone could use a hero these days, and that just might be you.