Page last updated at 04:31 UTC, Tuesday, 22 January 2013 PH
Philippine GDP will grow by 8 per cent in 2013, thanks to strong infrastructure investments, surging consumption, election spending, double-digit growth in BPO employment, domestic tourism increase and the continuation of a housing boom. Such a forecast no longer excites me since I made similar predictions in the past. Over the last three years, I have been vindicated by reality. What makes me happier is the expectation that my favorite spectator sport, football, can take a quantum leap in the attention and interest of Filipinos next year. There are several reasons why I am making this optimistic forecast for football in our country, still very much mesmerized by the likes of James LeBron and Pau Gasol, whose physical heights very few Filipinos can aspire to attain. First are the triumph after triumph of the AZCALs against strong teams as those of Vietnam and Myanmar, even if they don't manage to win the Suzuki cup. Then there is the increasing number of children enrolling in football clinics all over Metro Manila and in some cities like Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga, and Dumaguete. The premier event that gives me the greatest expectations about the beautiful game is the summer football camp in April 2013 that some coaches of FC Barcelona (arguably the best football club in the world) will conduct in key cities of the Philippines, thanks to the entrepreneurial talents of some young booters running a football club called Team Socceroo FC.
Team Socceroo FC is a football club in Manila established in 2005 by four brothers, Wool, Nicholas, Michael, Paulus Reyes, who were all graduates of football Powerhouse PAREF Southridge School. It is one of the numerous football clubs that have mushroomed in the Metro Manila and select cities in the Philippines, such as Iloilo, Cebu, Dumaguete and Zamboanga. The Southridge football team has won many football titles at the high school level in Metro Manila and nationally. Other PAREF schools in the regions, such as Westbridge in Iloilo and Springdale in Cebu are also champions in their own right. After they left Southridge, the Reyes brothers continued to nurture their passion for football and finally decided to contribute to the development of the sport in the Philippines by organizing Team Socceroo FC and launching their first ever football camp in 2010 at the Corinthian Village football field in Quezon City. Then they followed up year after year by opening two more football camps in San Lorenzo Village in Makati and Tahanan Village in Makati. It is targeting to open a fourth camp at the "Turf" in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.
In a recent trip to Singapore, the Reyes brothers met with people of FC Barcelona and agreed to sponsor a summer camp in April 2013, in which two FC Barcelona coaches, working together with six local coaches, will train some 144 children in a five-day camp. Although there are other famous clubs like Real Madrid and Sevilla who have conducted football clinics for Filipino youth in places like Negros Occidental and Davao, it will be the first time that coaches of FC Barcelona will be coming to the Philippines to conduct football clinics for kids. It will be a especially meaningful summer camp because a nine-year old student of Southridge, Sandro Reyes, has been accepted to train at the Escola FC Barcelona in Barcelona City, the very same training school that is a prelude to the famous La Masia who produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas--all contenders or winners of the Most Valuable Football Player of the World Award. Sandro was chosen from among thousands of applicants from all over the world and has a bright future in global football, even if he does not immediately get to play for FC Barcelona after his training. Like Fabregas, he can first play for other leading football clubs in Spain or other countries.
I am especially thrilled that, as football gains more enthusiastic players and fans in the Philippines, future Filipino football players will be exposed to the famous tiki-taka style of FC Barcelona that has catapulted this Catalan team to the top of world soccer because of the consummate ability of its players to play as a team and not as individual primadonnas. This became especially obvious to me when I watched the AZCALs play with the Myanmar team last November 30, 2013. Without taking away the glory of the Filipino footballers in their beating Myanmar 2 - 0, I concur with the commentators who remarked that the AZCALs were not working as a team, compared to the young players in the Myanmar contingent who demonstrated better skills in passing and in making more attempts at scoring. I hope that as the younger generation of Filipino football players get exposed to the culture of cooperation and modesty as exemplified by Lionel Messi of Barca, the Philippines will benefit, not only in having more successful football teams, but from having future leaders in every sector of Philippine society who will know how to work in a team, rather than as brilliant loners, a continuing scourge of many Philippine organizations. My interest in football goes much beyond the sport itself, but in the values and virtues formation that can be inherent in the Barca style of playing the game. As I have written many times in my columns, I would like to see Filipinos being trained in the self-effacing and humble spirit of Lionel Messi rather than in the self-centered style of Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham (I apologize to the fans of Real Madrid for my bluntness).
As those who follow closely the Spanish League would know, Barca is currently 8 or more points ahead of Real Madrid, its closest Rival. Especially spectacular was the recent 4 to 0 victory of Barca over Levante, admittedly a weak team. What was very notable, though, is that for most of the match, all the eleven players on the field were products of the Masia training program. It was a delight to see all eleven passing the ball with exquisite precision and creating opportunities for one another to score a goal. My expectations are high that Barca will recapture the championship of the Spanish League from Real Madrid and the Champions League from Chelsea. Meanwhile, let us support Team Socceroo in its laudable project of bringing FC Barcelona to Manila. Those who are interested in sending their children to the five-day camp or in sponsoring some aspects of the program may get in touch with Jose Reyes at 0917 566 9739 or Michael Reyes at email address email@example.com. Their website is www.teamsocceroo.com. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.