A story of self improvement


Philip Gililow signs for CSKA Moscow after a life dedicated to improving himself as a footballer.

By Philip Gililow (CSKA Moscow, U-18)

I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Looking back at it, I was very lucky to have grown up there. Football in the Netherlands is very popular and because of that I always had many fields available to practice. I started doing it at 6-7 years old, before and after going to school. I spent most of my free time kicking a ball with my friends in a nearby field. Football was just fun.

At that time I was also practicing gymnastics. I was very good at it. When I was 9 years old, I came in third place at the Dutch U-10 Championship. However, I started to like football more and more, and it ended up becoming more than just fun. I started to love it madly, even to the point that some nights I would sleep with a ball besides me on my bed. I started playing it more and more. I remember that one day my friends and I stayed on the field from the early afternoon until midnight. My mother was extremely concerned and even called the police. From that day on I promised her that I would always come home before nightfall.

I had such a good time playing soccer that I decided to put gymnastics aside and join a local club. I managed to convince my parents when I was 11 years old. Lots of people told me it was too late to start a football career, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed it and wanted to enjoy it even more.

“A lot of people made fun of me. They didn’t think I could get to play WELL, but I kept working”

That is how I started to play for Roda 23, a club not far from where I was living. From the beginning they put me in the U-12/7 team, that is to say, the seventh team in that category. I mean, a very bad team. At first I didn’t care, but then it became too small for me. It was then when I started to work really hard. From the age of 12 I took football very seriously and began to dedicate a lot of extra hours to training. The following season they put me in the U-13/4 team. My situation had improved, but I understood that I needed to work harder and so I began to pay attention to my diet as well. A lot of people started making fun of me. They didn’t think I could get to play better than them, but I kept working.

In the 2016-17 season they put me in the U-14/3 team, and the following year I made the U-15/2. But it was still not enough. I felt the coaches did not believe in me, despite the fact that I considered myself better than many other players who were in the first team. It seemed very unfair to me. I was tired of how they treated me at the club. I felt stuck. I needed a new place to improve. I need some team to notice me.

Philip Gililow durante un entrenamiento en Marcet.
Philip Gililow during a training session at Marcet.

During the summer of 2018 I started looking for solutions on the Internet and I ended up finding the Marcet Academy. I wanted to go to Barcelona. My father -who always believed in me- supported me once again and decided to enroll me in an intensive summer course. I really liked what i saw at Marcet. There were better training sessions and a much more serious and professional approach. So, I decided to spend the whole year in Barcelona and join the Professional Program. I left my country, my school and my family to move to Spain and follow my dream.

The beginnings were not easy. I was in the first team of the U-16 category, but I never played in the starting eleven. Also, I had to learn the language, and that took me three months. Things got better with time. I never became the star player of the team -I was far from it- but I learned more than ever. That season we played against many great teams, such as Valencia, Villarreal, Crystal Palace, Alaves, Zaragoza, Girona, Oviedo, Numancia… Sometimes I only played part of the match, but it was a phenomenal experience. I literally improved in every aspect of the game. Especially in tactics and decision-making. I am very grateful to my coach Felipe Ragel, who always believed in me. I learned a lot from him and he will always occupy a very special place in my life.

“at marcet I COULD PLAY AGAINST great CLUBS and I ended up improving in EVERY aspect of the game”

In my second year at Marcet I made my debut as a U-18 player. I started the season well, but then I got sick and injured four times. In addition, restrictive measures imposed by the authorities to deal with Covid-19 caused the league’s abrupt stop in March. That didn’t make me change my plans. At the end of the season I did what I had planned to do: find myself a club. At the beginning many rejected me, for different reasons. Until I received good news in August: CSKA Moscow wanted to see me.

On September 4, 2020, I started a one-week trial with this club. At the beginning I trained with the U-18 team, but on the third day they assigned me to the U-19. Two weeks later they officially told me that they were going to sign me. Since then I have the privilege of playing for this beautiful club. Because it doesn’t really matter what your starting point is: if you really want something and work hard to get it, then you’ll get it. Everything is possible.



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