Page last updated at 04:22 Asia/Manila, Monday, 03 November 2014 PH
How do countries in Latin America and Africa produce world class football players like Ronaldinho and Samuel E’to? One, though not the only, way is to bring the playing of the beautiful game to the economically depressed communities called favelhas or chabolas (squatter areas) and get the children on the street to kick the ball any time and any where. There are even countries that actually put up football academies for boys six to fourteen years of age and train them full time for export to the richer countries in Europe once they reach the age of 18. Football clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others pay handsome amounts to purchase outstanding football players from emerging markets. Why not the Philippines? I share the dream with some of the officials of the Philippine Football Federation that one day, in the not too distant future, we can produce world class players like the famous Paulino Alcantara (whose mother was an Ilongga), a superstar in FC Barcelona in the 1920s. It was only last March that Lionel Messi broke the record of Paulino Alcantara for the number of goals accumulated while playing
for FC Barcelona. A group of CEOs and executives from the Philippines were present in that historic moment in Camp Nou. They had to watch that particular game (vs. Ossasuna) as a requirement of an Advanced Management Program they were taking at the IESE Business School.
To make sure that football is an “inclusive” game and is not limited to the children of the well-to-do, many organisations are sponsoring tournaments and football clinics which allow children of underprivileged families to learn how to play the game. For example, when the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium’s brand new P19 million artificial turf was inaugurated recently, the main event was a “Mini Football World Cup” featuring four teams made up mostly of underprivileged kids. The embassies of Chile and Argentina fielded football teams of street children from their adopted/sponsored communities in the depressed areas of Metro Manila while the Philippine Sports Commission, under the leadership of Richie Garcia, entered two squads from its “Laro’t Saya Sa Luneta” program for underprivileged children.
In fact, the embassies of Argentina, Brazil and Chile—three countries that shone in the last World Cup—were the originators of the Ambassadors Cup that had its first run last March 2014 in the new Sports Center of the University of Asia and the Pacific. The ABC cup first started as a three-nation initiative to help street children in such areas as Payatas and Tondo to sharpen their skills in the playing of football. These kids were given free balls, shoes, trousers and shirts by the Embassies in cooperation with business enterprises and NGOs devoted to the promotion of football as a national sport. In no time at all, these three countries were joined by 8 other countries which also adopted their respective depressed communities. In cooperation with UA&P, these countries organised an Ambassadors Cup where eleven teams competed with one another. This event will be repeated yearly and will be joined by more embassies who will recruit other communities to the tournament. From what I saw in the first Cup held last March, there were some really good players among the children who, if given the opportunity for greater exposure to the sport, may actually be scouted by international teams in the same way that a nine-year-old boy from Southridge was discovered by some scouts from the FC Barcelona Escola two years ago. This boy is already enrolled in this school, which is the precursor of the famous La Masia, the school that trained the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Cesc Fabregas.
There are other initiatives that cater to street children in the area of football training. There are the Don Bosco schools, who for decades have been turning out some of our best football players. The Henry Moran Foundation, headed by business man Danny Moran (one of the original founders of Red Ribbon and now of Amici Italian Restaurant) has been training street children for years. Although not limited to poor children, many football cups like the Alaska Cup and the Milo Cup have also enabled children from the poorer segments of society to pit their skills with those belonging to the upper classes of society. Other inclusive programs in football training are those run by the Roxas Foundation in Batangas and the Aboitiz Foundation in Central Visayas. The International Football Federation (FIFA) is helping local groups to expand their training programs for children, including street children, by financing the building of football academies in three places: Valencia, Bukidnon; Palo, Leyte; and Carmona, Cavite. There will be facilities in these three football camps that can house hundreds of football players, both young and old. who will be spending several days or even weeks to hone their skills in the playing of football. I have seen the one in Valencia, Bukidnon, and am excited about the improvement in the playing of football that these new facilities will make possible.
We should also thank local football clubs like Team Socceroo that is bringing to the Philippines coaches of famous football clubs such as FC Barcelona to conduct football clinics in key cities of the country. After two successful clinics in Manila in the last year or so, FCBarcelona Escola Philippines is scheduled to have another FCBE Camp on October 26 to 30, 2014 in Cebu. Training sessions will be conducted by a technical director, FCBEscola coaches, and assisted by hand-picked local coaches. Those coming from middle-class families will be charged a participation fee but there will be slots allocated to street children who will be sponsored by cooperating business enterprises. The clinic will be for boys and girls ages 6 to 14 and will be held at the Aboitiz Sports Field in Cebu. The children will come from the Visayas and Mindanao. The five-day football camp will be patterned after FCBarcelona’s philosophy and methodology and has the main objective of inculcating both skills and values. The participants will be nurtured in such values as team spirit and cooperation, humility, spirit of service, positive outlook, hard work and perseverance. Families in the Visayas and Mindanao interested in enrolling their children in this camp that will teach the “Barca way of playing football” may register at the website www.fcbescolaphilippines.com or call Mike Reyes at 0917 566 9739 or 217 8771. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.