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Freeman Cebu Sports

Graeme “Ceburoo” Mackinnon looks back at Cebu football journey with grateful heart

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Graeme Mackinnon, popularly known as “Ceburoo” for being an Australian by birth but Cebuano at heart, looked back with a grateful heart to his colorful years as an integral part and prominent figure in the growth and development of Cebu football nearly three decades ago.

Back in 1994, Mackinnon and coach Mario Ceniza, through the blessings of M. Lhuillier big boss Michel Lhuillier, with whom he forged a lasting friendship 11 years earlier in 1983, started a grassroots sports development program for Cebu football. It became a perfect avenue for aspiring Cebuano booters to hone their skills and eventually make it big both in the national and international level.

“Our rationale being that there had to be hidden talent in the provinces we just had to find them. Thus, the M. Lhuillier Sports Development Foundation (MLSDF) was born. Mario and I travelled to Carmen, Danao, Naga, Barili, Toledo and Balamban centers twice a week for early morning coaching in search of those uncut diamonds,” shared Mackinnon.

“Before the MLSDF was the senior team that we formed in 1987. That is where the football development started. The senior team played in two national championship finals winning in 1988 in Iloilo and losing in 1991 in Dumageute.”

“Lhuillier’s impact on this journey cannot be understated. In truth, without meeting him, this journey would have stalled then and there. If he believed any proposal I put before him was good for football and Cebu then he would back it all the way,” he added.

 Mackinnon first played football in Cebu with the San Miguel team during the 1981 National Championships at the Bohemian Field in Talamban.They finished second behind CDCP, with the now Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Nonong Araneta in the opposition.

Since then, he had so many unforgettable moments.

“Of course, becoming National Champions for Cebu in 1988 is at the top of the list,” Mackinnon shared. “Being inducted as a batch member into the Cebu Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, along with Michel Lhuillier, was indeed and unexpected honor. It was made more memorable by having my parents in attendance during the ceremony. The honor was doubled in 2011 when the ML88 team that won the national championship was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

For MacKinnon, his experiences off the field that are the most memorable.

“Apart from the ML88 era where most were already in college, the MLSDF, Springdale and Canduman centers players were, to begin with, all in elementary school. We have watched them firsthand develop into the person they are today. Tess and I are most proud of the way they have transitioned into upstanding adults in the community,” said Mackinnon. 

Looking back over the years, Mackinnon takes pride for having contributed something good to Cebu football, even as he also felt extremely happy for the massive progress it attained today.

“I was told by my mum when we went on a picnic, always leave a place better than you found it,” said Mackinnon.  “I suppose those words could characterize what I believe are my achievements in Cebu. From practical experience I believed help was needed and so with my drive and passion I believe football was in a better place than when I found it.”

 “I pulled back from Cebu football twenty years ago. Since then, there have been enormous steps forward. My congratulations to all those who have been responsible for the change. Eventually they also will be able to look back and feel they too have left football better than when they found it. That continuous striving for evolvement will ensure a secure footing for Football in Cebu.”

For such sentimental reason, Mackinnon and his Cebuana wife Tess flew to Cebu all the way from Australia to meet with some old friends and rekindle their wonderful moments in Cebu in a simple yet meaningful get-together at House of Lechon recently.

“We are saying thank you to people who have been part of the journey for the mentoring and friendship. Its essence really is the longevity of the friendships formed along the way and to thank those who were there then and still around now. We’ve grown together and I’m very appreciative of those friendships formed. We have to do it while we can so there can be no regrets later on,” said Mackinnon.

“I’m Aussie by birth, Cebuano at heart. Even my handle for my Gmail is Ceburoo, that says it all. There is a bond. Very grateful for the opportunities afforded me by being part of Cebu. Proud to be Aussie, proud to be adopted Cebuano,” Mackinnon ended.

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