A NORTHERN League striker’s dream goal of playing international football has moved closer to reality after being signed by a professional team – in the Philippines.
Ex-Bedale High School student Graham Caygill has moved 7,000 miles from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, to play for Loyola Meralco Sparks Football Club, in Manila, in the hope of impressing scouts for the Filipino national team.
The 23-year-old, who has given up his job with his family’s tourism firm, has signed a contract with the Sparks after demonstrating his scoring skills to the club by attending training sessions during a holiday in January.
As Mr Caygill’s mother, Merlyn, is from the country, the former Northallerton Town and Bedale player is a Filipino citizen and could qualify to play for the national team, currently ranked 143rd in the world by Fifa.
After making his debut in a match that was screened live for the Sparks, who are challenging for the Philippines premier league title, his father, Keith, said his son had demonstrated his ability by coming close to scoring.
Mr Caygill said his 6ft tall son’s height could prove useful in the Philippines league as most Filipino men are shorter and that it had become immediately apparent that the game is played differently there, with such practices as rolling substitutions.
He added: “Graham is still getting accustomed to playing in the heat, on artificial turf pitches and having to get up at 5.30am to train, but he nearly scored on his first start.
“I am absolutely delighted for him, he has worked very hard, he loves football and he deserves all the success he can get.”
Mr Caygill said it had only been recently that his son had discovered he could play football professionally, after finding teams in the Philippines league had to feature at least six Filipino nationals.
He said: “Graham had also been researching the Filipino national team and found some of the players were playing at a similar level to him in England.
“That made him think he could get an opportunity to play international football in due course and the best way of doing that was to go to the Philippines.”