Bernardo M. Villegas
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Virtues and Values in Football

           Football has increased the GDP of many countries all over the world, especially in Europe.  Just think of the billions of euros generated by gate receipts, television rights, advertising and sales promotion programs, endorsements by celebrities and football-oriented products like T-shirts, shoes and all types of sports wear.  Imagine how much revenues can be earned by the leading football clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Liverpool if they can pay 100 million US dollars or more to acquire top players like Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar.  Speaking of shoes, I just learned from my nephew Michael Arcenas who is a co-owner of dozens of Nike Palace stores all over the country that in late May, they will be launching a new brand called Magista which was actually announced by Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona as the shoes to be worn by many players in the coming World Cup in Brazil.  In the words of Michael, with Magista, "soccer shoes or football will never be the same again.  It has a sock-like it, as if you were not wearing anything."  I have no doubt that when this new brand is introduced, Nike will make a killing.

          It may take a while, though, before the Philippines can have a major industry based on football.  One milestone will be the launching of the Philippine National Football League some time in 2016.  We don't have to wait, however, to extract  non-economic value form football.  I am referring to the intangible but priceless contribution of football to the nurturing of virtues and values, especially in the young. Football may not immediately increase our Gross Domestic Product.  I am sure, though, that from day one of its introduction as a major sport in the Philippines, it will significantly increase our Gross National Happiness because virtues and values make people happy.

          I would like to reproduce here an email I got from one of the leading promoters of football in the Philippines.  His name is Jonathan Defensor De Luzuriaga.  He owns and manages an indoor football center called Kick Off at Las Pinas (100 Marcos Alvarez Avenue) www.koifc.com.   Reacting to an article written by my good friend Minyong Ordonez, he enumerated an exhaustive list of virtues and values football can help develop in children.  His views are especially believable because he has played the sport for a long time and he has watched his own and other children bitten by the football bug.  I quote from him verbatim:

          1.  Teamwork--Football is about teamwork.  It is almost impossible to score or win a game by yourself.  Be it an 11-a-side or small-sided game, reliance on each other is imperative.

          2.  Fairness--The "Fair Play" rule:  other sports do not highlight this as aspect as much as football.  When an opponent is incapacitated, every player on the pitch is accustomed to not take advantage of the situation.

          3.  Selflessness--Passing:  I once heard a Don Bosco priest say "passing makes the game all the more beautiful."  Every good football coach would always teach their players to look for the passing option.

          4.  Responsibility--Ejection (Red Card), one of the few sports that make the entire team suffer because of an ejection/red card.  The mistake of one person receiving the red card is felt by the entire team as he/she could not be replaced by another player.

          5.  Trust and reliance--...all positions rely on each other.  The roles of each player is well defined and a winning game is, almost always, a result of playing as a cohesive unit with each individual playing his/her role.  Every decent football school/program would teach that the first line of defence are the forwards and the first line of offense is the goalkeeper.

          6.  Composure through difficulties:  the goal is big but the scores are low.  This is proof that scoring in football is not easy.  Both teams would have to struggle for 90 + minutes oftentimes under much difficulty.

          7. Strength and vulnerability:  aside from the shin guards, nothing really protects the player from physical contact or injury.

          8.  Equality--height or size doesn't really play a significant role in being a successful player.  We have seen players like Diego Maradona, all 5'5" of him dominate the world stage with his lightning fast feet, superior ball control and excellent football sense. (May I add that today's version of Maradona, Lionel Messi, actually needed growth hormones to reach the average height of a Filipino.)

          9.  Flexibility--football requires you to use body parts that are naturally not utilize by human beings for sporting activities (except for the goalkeeper).

          10.  Courage--anyone who has been at the receiving end of a ball knows that football requires bravery and courage.  According to one article, the ball could travel as fast as 75 miles per hour on the average.

          11.  Communication--amidst the noise from the crowd and the size of the pitch, football players have this uncanny ability to still communicate with each other.  Coaches on the side lines are often heard shouting "talk to each other" to his/her players on the pitch.

          I thank Mr. Luzurriaga for literally taking the words of my mouth.  Although I am not a football player, I am an avid values education practitioner.  In fact, I have written several books on values and virtues.  That is why I am now actively promoting the playing of football at all levels of Philippine society. There are very few activities in which you grow in virtues as you have a great deal of fun.   I especially congratulate Mr. Luzurriaga for his efforts to teach special children the "beautiful game."  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia