Page last updated at 12:37 Asia/Manila, Wednesday, 23 January 2013 PH
Leaders in both the public and private sectors should capitalize on the rising popularity of football. As a friend of mine, Professor Kimio Kase of the IESE Business School, wrote in a book that he co-authored with Sandalio Gomez and Ignatio Irrutia, "the values inherent in any sporting activity deeply influence the behavior of individuals, families and entire generations, extending to all areas of social life. These values include the pursuit of professional excellence, endurance in the pursuit of goals, strength of will, fair play, respect and consideration for rivals, team spirit, readiness to make decisions, and solidarity." Children and young people have a great need for the right role models, especially in a society like the Philippines where politicians and entertainment personalities are not exactly paragons of virtues and upright living. As the three authors of the book "Value Creation and Sport Management" contend: "Sports idols have some of these qualities and are seen as role models by young people longing for ideals to imitate and emulate. An Olympic gold medal, a team victory or a statement by a leading sports person, can have a huge impact on the fans' desire to follow in their footsteps. Pau Gasol in basketball, Rafael Nadal in tennis or Miguel Indurain in cycling illustrate just how much elite sports people can mean to a society such as Spain, emerging from its backwardness by reaffirming and symbolizing the vitality and creativity of its people." As an avid football fan myself, let me add the very positive role that Lionel Messi, the Most Valuable Football Player in the World, plays in inspiring children and the youth to develop virtues of modesty and spirit of cooperation.
Sports clubs centered around families and elementary and high schools should be especially encouraged to consciously incorporate values and virtues formation in their activities. As Professor Kase et al pointed out: "The above-mentioned values motivate an individual, personal and unique style of behavior or way of life and, at the same time, promote a positive attitude in society towards physical exercise and sport at all ages. Eventually, this leads to the creation of a 'social culture' in which these values are internalized and jealously preserved, so that they may be passed on to later generations." As I have pointed out in my articles on the promotion of football, the culture of cooperation and personal modesty found in teams like that of FC Barcelona, can go a long way in helping Filipinos overcome their overly individualistic style and think more frequently about the common good of society. Needless to say, a positive attitude towards physical exercise, which is beginning to spread through marathons, fun runs, triathlons and other mass participation in sporting events, will prevent Filipinos from following the unhealthy paths of many Americans whose greatest health risk is obesity and heart disease.
As an independent director of the board of the Alaska Milk Corporation, I am very proud of the fact that our company has been the most active business firm in the promotion of football in the Philippines. Through the Alaska Football Cup, the country's biggest youth football tournament, our company has actually been practising what has been described above as values education through the beautiful game. The Alaska Football Cup is an annual amateur football tournament that assembles close to 300 teams from all over the country. Sponsored by Alaska Powdered Milk Drink, it is part of the Alaska Power Camp, which holds training programs in football. These projects are in line with Alaska Milk Corporation's commitment to promote sports and to instill the values of discipline, determination and hard work among children. Thomas Lozano, 17th Alaska Football Cup's project director, highlights the contribution of playing football to the cultivation of values and virtues among Filipino children. In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, Mr. Lozano remarked: "Filipinos are good kids. They are happy kids. It's the attitude that makes them winners. They are very enthusiastic. They really want to learn and will listen to you. They are not like some foreigners, who can sometimes be stiff, strict....Filipinos are very talented and football is suited to us because there is no height requirement unlike with basketball. Unfortunately, the sport does not get much support."
There are encouraging signs that the lament of Mr. Lozano will be addressed in the coming years. Thanks to the recent successes of the AZKALs, the Philippine national football team, Philippine business, civil society and the Government are taking a renewed interest in the promotion of the sport. More companies are following the lead of Alaska Milk Corporation in investing in the promotion of football, such as Metro Pacific, Nestle, Nike, MERALCO, San Miguel Corporation, among others. I would like to see more cities and towns all over the Philippines making investments in football stadia, such as the Rizal Memorial in Pasay and those in Bacolod and Iloilo. One reason why I would like to see Ramon Magsaysay Jr. re-elected as Senator is that he is one of the more enlightened sports enthusiasts who could sponsor a law mandating LGUs to construct a football stadium in every locality. That is the least the Government can do to promote both moral and financial values inherent to a sport like football. More about the financial value in future columns. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.