Page last updated at 12:02 Asia/Manila, Thursday, 12 January 2017 PH
I would like to point out to our President and other leaders in both government and the private sector that football is a most effective means of nurturing the right virtues and values among our youth. It is the sport that can enhance discipline, perseverance, the spirit of cooperation, humility, tenacity, optimism, hard work and other human virtues that will be good for nation building. By getting children as young as four years old, supported by their parents, to take interest in football, we provide them with a more positive and healthy means of spending their leisure time, away from their computers and cellphones. Most importantly to President Duterte, football can be a great antidote to the drug menace since the physical exercise, good use of time, concentration and fun associated with football can be a remedy to the boredom, laziness, and emptiness which are fertile grounds for drug addiction. As an educator myself, I have seen the importance of sport, especially football, in the cultivation of human values and virtues.
Another reason for our leaders to take interest in promoting the national football league (whose role models are the Premier League in the UK, the Bundesliga in Germany and the Liga in Spain) is the contribution it can make to fostering loyalty among Filipinos to their respective federal states, once we move towards a federal form of government. The healthy competition among the regional clubs will enhance the pride that the people in each region will feel for the accomplishments of their respective states. I can already envision a football club in Davao beating the leading football club in Metro Manila (in the same way that in more recent times FC Barcelona beats Real Madrid more often than not!). That is one way for the regions to decapitate and deflate Imperial Manila, even if just in football competition. The least I expect of President Duterte is for him to give a lot of encouragement to the Davao City community to give the strongest support to the organization of a football club that will represent Davao in the Philippine Football League. I am sure he knows the people in Davao who are passionate about football. He can also encourage other Mindanao cities to organize themselves so that all of them can give the Metro Manila clubs a run for their money. CDO-Bukidnon, Dipolog, and Zamboanga are among these cities that have long traditions in football.
I already expect the skeptics and the pessimists to say that with scarce financial resources, the Philippines does not have the wherewithal to compete even just within Asia. As mentioned above, the Chinese are so awash with capital that they are investing huge sums of money in their own players as well as investing in clubs all over the world (more recently, there are rumors that some Chinese investors may invest in one of the iconic British clubs, Liverpool). Just within Southeast Asia, the budgets devoted to football by countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even Vietnam make our resources look so puny. I answer, however, that what we lack in resources, we should compensate for with our creativity, resourcefulness and diligence.
My usual optimism in the future of Philippine football was especially given a boost by the successes of two European clubs in the last season: Leicester City in the Premier League and Atletico de Madrid in the Liga. Terribly underfinanced, both clubs surprised the football world with their astonishing victories. Leicester did what was impossible for an upstart club: win the Premier League against such giants as Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool. Atletico de Madrid, who had to sell one of their best players to cover their deficit, won two important games in the Champions League against perennial champions FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich. As foremost football commentator, Rob Hughes, wrote in the International New York Times (April 29, 2016), “Both Leicester and Atletico are upstarts. They have less to spend than the mighty clubs in their leagues but excel when it comes to hard work, detailed planning and absolute solidarity in their ranks.” Another inspiring case is that of Iceland, a country of a little over 300,000 people that reached the quarterfinals in the last European Cup of 2016, beating England, the country which invented football. My point is that money is not everything. If we have close cooperation among the government, the business sector, and civil society, we can aim for the moon and target qualifying for the World Cup within the next twenty years (the same planning period in which we should reach First World status). In this regard, South Korea should be our model on both counts. It reached First World Status in twenty years from middle-income level and qualified for the World Cup in the same period. (To be continued.)