Bernardo M. Villegas
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Increasing Support for Football Industry

           In my last column, I wrote about a roundtable discussion held at the University of Asia and the Pacific with stakeholders of the football industry.  A very important group of stakeholders was represented by Mr. Ed Formoso, Project Head of the Liga GK Futbol of the Moran Foundation.  Last January 16, the Moran Foundation staged "A Very Special Futbol Cup', a three-hour football festival that featured some national players of the 1960s, 70s and 80s who played matches against the "Philippine Specials" futbol selection that will participate in the 2013 Special Olympics in Newcastle, Australia in December.  The game was held at the Tuloy sa Don Bosco in Alabang where streetchildren are regularly taught how to play football under the auspices of the Moran Foundation.  In addition to streetchildren, the Foundation is helping some of the mentally challenged or special people to lead more normal lives through the playing of the sport of football.  Helping the Moran Foundation are the Salesian priests who have been the most active among the religious institutions in fostering football among the children of the underprivileged.  One can easily picture St. John Bosco coaching poor children in Italy to play football in streets corners and vacant lots.

           A more recent initiative is that of the Ambassadors of three Latin American Countries, i.e. Argentina, Brazil and Chile (ABC).  They have created the "ABC Cup" which is addressed to the children of poor households in the periphery of Metro Manila.  With the help of Catholic priests from these three countries, the Ambassadors are stimulating the practice of football and diffusing the values of the sport in forging strong characters among the youth.  The Ambassador of Brazil, George Fernandes, personally devotes time every Saturday and Sunday to coaching the kids.  This initiative has been added to the pool of countries contributing their share to develop the "beautiful sport" in the Philippines.  A number of famous clubs from Spain--Sevilla, Real Madrid, and Barcelona--together with local partners have been or will be conducting football clinics for young people.  The Philippines can also learn from the best practices of other developing nations that have succeeded in producing excellent football players among the children of the lower income households.  Some of the world class players in the Ivory Coast come from these households.  Venezuela also showed how to improve the popularity of the sport in record time.  Through their respective embassies, our industry leaders can arrange for some "transfer of technology."  I am sure other European countries like the U.K., Germany, Italy and Poland have ongoing or future programs to help foster the sport in the Philippines.  In a recent consumer summit in Singapore organized by the Financial Times, Mr. Jamie Reigle, Managing Director, Asia Pacific of Manchester United Ltd., said that the focus of the company's fortunes are shifting to Asia.  Of the 50 million fans who watched a Manchester United game in 2011, about 10 million were from Indonesia alone.  Given a concerted effort to promote football in the Philippines, the large domestic market of the country can also be attractive to clubs like ManU, Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona.

          One has to add the business sector as a potent stakeholder of the football industry in the Philippines. In addition to the Alaska Milk Corporation that sponsors the annual Alaska Cup for the youth, the Metro Pacific group of companies under the leadership of Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan has allocated millions of pesos to strengthen the participation of various teams in important leagues.  Nestle also sponsors football events for young people.   Other companies like Caltex and Business Mirror are beginning to be active in sponsoring football events.  I would like to hear from other companies that are supporting or are planning to support football in the Philippines.  At this juncture, let me announce again to parents with children already "addicted" to football (better than addiction to computer games), Team Soccerro FC is bringing coaches from FC Barcelona to conduct football clinics sometime in April 2013.  There are still slots available and interested parties may contact Mr. Mike Reyes at 0917 596 1624.  They may also go to the website of Team Soccerro FC.  I would like to pay tribute here to the late Wool Reyes who joined his Creator last March 18 after an attack of cerebral aneurysm.  Wool, together with his three brothers (Mike, Nicolas and Paulus), was a moving force in bringing FC Barcelona to the Philippines.

          Finally, as pointed out by Ms. Nazareno-Rivilla, a most potent force to disseminate the playing of football is the female population.  Her own academy is attracting many girls who are interested in playing the sport.  Women as players themselves or even more importantly as spectators (women were very visible in the bleachers during the matches of the AZCALS, thanks among others to some of the goodlooking Filipino mestizo players).  A personal friend of mine, Linda Mondejar Schaefer (wife of Paul, the Representative of Hanns Seidel Foundation in the Philippines) is one of the most active supporters of football for women.  She herself plays football and has a son in Germany who is playing professional football.  I am hoping this son will one day come back to the Philippines and play with the AZCALS.  

        In my own University, the University of Asia and the Pacific, women excel in playing futsal--a game akin to football but has the great advantage of being played within the confines of a small space.  That is why, three of our Physical Education teachers--Ms. Stella Urbiztondo, Ms. Joanna Franquelli, and Mr. Christian Domingues--will be participating actively in the task force that will formulate the Road Map.  They will show how educational institutions at all levels--from grade school to the university--can be instruments for promoting the sport, especially with the cooperation of the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.  Football can be an important component of the physical education curricula in all our schools.  With the strong support of Local Government Units through the provision of more football fields and stadia all over the country, we can aspire to have football at least as the second most important sport after basketball in the medium term.  I hope that the governors and mayors who will be elected next May 2013 can in the next three years include in their plans the building of football fields, if not stadia, in their respective localities.  More communities should emulate such cities and towns like Iloilo,  Barotac Viejo, Dumaguete, Zamboanga and Davao where there is a serious effort to foster the playing of football on the part of the local authorities. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.