Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
Role Model for Little AZKALS

           Thanks to an invitation from a former student of mine at CRC, Albert Almendralejo, I saw a documentary on the training in the UK of the Philippine Under-11 National Football Team last October 14 at The Podium of SM in Ortigas Center.  The documentary titled Pangarap Kong World Cup (World Cup Dreams) follows the tryouts, training and games played by a group of 22 young kids, all members of the U-11 national football team called the Little Azkals. The team was drafted from different parts of the country, with many coming from underprivileged families.  In 2013, the team and their coaches went to Loughborough University in Leicestershire, UK, for training.  The program was sponsored by the British Council and Pru Life UK in support of the Philippine Football Federation’s long-term programme to build a team which could qualify for the 2019 U-17 World Cup.  This is an example of the long-term view that should be taken by more training programs in the country, whether in sports or in other areas involving people development.  This film was the second of a series that has been featured by ABS-CBN, the staunchest advocate of the beautiful game in Philippine media.

          In the first film that was aired last August 10, 2014, the President of the Philippine Football Federation, Nonong Araneta, talked about the way football can foster the virtue of patriotism among the youthful players.  As an educator, my interest in football goes much beyond the sport itself and its entertainment value.  I have always emphasized the contribution of football to the nurturing of human and spiritual values among the players, both young and old.  This can only be possible if the coaches and managers of the football teams assign the highest importance to the spirit of cooperation and the subordination of individual interests to the common good of the team.  This was highlighted by Germany coach Joachim Low at the FIFA/UEFA Conference for National Coaches and Technical Directors held in St. Petersburg, Russia last September 16 to 17.  When he was congratulated for having lifted the title in the World Cup in Brazil, he retorted that the whole team, rather than just the coach, was responsible for the accomplishment:  “All the cogs must mesh and every piece of the puzzle has to fit in order to have a complete picture at the end.”

          I just spent two weeks in Spain and got totally immersed in affairs of the Spanish League, even being given the chance to watch live a match between FC Espanyol and Real Sociedad in the brand new stadium of FC Espanyol in Barcelona.  In those two weeks, I was struck by two headlines in the Sports pages.   The first was about Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid having hit three hat tricks in five games, having scored four goals in one of the matches.  This feat could earn for this Portuguese star his second World Player of the Year award.  There is no doubt that Cristiano is one of the best scorers in Spanish history, having equaled the record of scoring 22 hat tricks in the Spanish League also held by Telmo Zarra and Real Madrid legend Alfredo di  Stefano. 

          Without sounding like sour grapes, however, let me say that if I am to advise the Little Azcals whom to look up to as a role model in football, it will be four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona.  What convinced me about how more complete a player Messi is than Ronaldo was a headline that I read in the magazine MARCA about how Messi in the first four games of the current season of the Spanish League was responsible for 7 of the 11 goals scored by Barca.  Among the 7, 3 were direct goals and 4 were assists. Messi may not be the top scorer but he leads the list of passers.  Being the consummate team player, he surpasses the exceptional footballers in midfield such as Isco, Xabi Prieto or Koke who are the ones whose task it is to assist the strikers in scoring goals.  Lionel Messi is a striker who is not obsessed with being the top scorer but is always thinking of the good of the whole team, even if he does not shine in a given match.  In my opinion, this character trait is the one that will develop team spirit among our young players, which in turn can cultivate in them the virtue of patriotism.  A narcissistic player or a “buaya” in the local language can hardly evolve into a patriotic person.  For comments, my email address is