Page last updated at 08:19 Asia/Manila, Thursday, 05 November 2015 PH
By 2017, we can have some ten to twelve football clubs from different regions competing in the Philippine National Football League. Having been traveling to various regions in economic road shows, I may be more optimistic than some of the PFF officials about the number of clubs that can participate in the future National League. I predict that there will be at least four, even five, in the National Capital Region: coming possibly from Makati, Quezon City, Paranaque or Las Pinas, Manila and Calamba or Sta. Rosa. Batangas City is also a candidate, being favored by a good number of private initiatives training street children and public school pupils such as those of the Roxas Foundation and different groups from Punta Fuego. There can be two from Cebu, probably one promoted by the Aboitizes and the other by Ricky Dakay. There should be at least one, if not two, from Iloilo, the hometown of Paulino Alcantara and the epicenter of football in the Philippines. The newly consolidated region of Negros may actually produce two: one from Bacolod (say, La Salle-Ceres) and the other from Dumaguete that has a high per capita of “tisoys.” Then in Mindanao, there should be one each from Davao, Cagayan de Oro-Bukidnon, and General Santos City. North of Manila, there should be at least one club in Central Luzon (say from the Angeles-Clark area) and Northern Luzon, say Laoag. We can easily reach 12 clubs from the very start.
As transport and communications infrastructures are constantly improved, especially through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, the costs of transporting players from one venue to another, as will be required by the national league, will drop precipitously. Very cheap plane fares that can be made possible by very long-term scheduling and travel by land using the Philippine Nautical Highway (thanks to the Administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) will enable the football league to avoid the failure of a similar attempt in the last century to organize a national basketball league. At that time, it was extremely expensive to ferry basketball players from one city to another. In fact, a successful national football league may encourage the basketball aficionados to try organizing one more time an analogous national league for the nation’s number one sport.
From the economic point of view, private business can be increasingly attracted to supporting football to promote brand image (e.g. Pru-Life UK, Alaska or Unilever), CSR (e.g. Meralco, First Pacific, Walter Brown) or synergy with real estate (Megaworld, Ayala Land, Manny Villar group). In my capacity as a business economist, I am getting more and more inquiries from business conglomerates on how they can fit football into their long-term strategies. Some of them are seeking out partnerships to put up football academies with leading clubs abroad like FC Barcelona, FC Espanyol, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Sevilla. These academies can go a long way in training quality coaches and referees who are critical to the improvement of the skills of homegrown players. Foreign embassies are also very helpful.
The pool of trainable youth can also significantly expand through an initiative of former Senator Edgardo Angara who has put up a foundation that will work closely with the Department of Education to include football in the curriculum of our public elementary and secondary schools. As I said above, with the youngest population in the whole of East Asia, the Philippines—given support from the Government, the business community, and civil society—has a great potential for being a football power in the next twenty years.
I hope that this daring attempt to predict (dream about) the future of football as a national sport will attract the attention of the next President and his executive team so that they can give the fullest support to the more rapid development of the beautiful game. They can get some inspiration from the Chinese government that is moving heaven and earth to be in the finals of World Cup by 2022!. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.