Bernardo M. Villegas
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Thank God There Is Football

           Last November 8 was the second anniversary of the tragedy inflicted on Tacloban and the whole of Eastern Visayas by super-typhoon Haiyan (called locally Yolanda).   Demonstrating that they have more than recovered emotionally from this natural calamity that claimed eight thousands lives, the people of Tacloban—led by the Doña Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Medical Foundation (RTRMF) and Mission Tacloban—celebrated their resilience by gathering at the ultra-modern Robinsons Cinema 1 to view a screening of a documentary on football entitled “Fields of Hope.”  Written and directed by Troy Bernardo and produced by Ginggay Hontiveros and Gabby Malvar, the documentary traced the dramatic journey of three young survivors, Jarred Troy Regis, Kenneth Imperial and Julius Coringcoting, as they overcame their trauma and became the best football players of Barangay San Jose, a coastal village of about 14,000 people that was nearly obliterated from the map by the killer typhoon. 

          Many of us still remember the stark photos of children, practically naked, who lost parents and other members of their families turning to football to overcome the shock inflicted by Yolanda.  Fields of Hope documented how this instinctive reaction of these children—helped by volunteers from both local and international organizations—was followed through by practitioners of the beautiful game. Led by officials of RTRMF who sponsored the RTR Football Cup, a group of volunteers used football to help rid children of trauma by creating an environment of hope, competitive sportsmanship, teamwork, and camaraderie.  Obviously, the sport has not resolved the problem of abject poverty of many of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.  As Coach Bing Regis candidly admitted:  “Our homes were destroyed by the storm.  We still haven’t finished reconstructing them…Our players built their own bunk houses, using whatever debris they could find, like wood, corrugated tin, anything, just so that they could have a place to stay when they train.  Nothing can stop these kids from playing football.”

          Having won the RTR Cup Jersey, the RTR All-Stars of Team San Jose succeeded in fielding six of its best players to participate in the training camp organized by Manila-based Team Socceroo (now renamed FC Sigla) in Cebu in tandem with FC Barcelona Escola (the training wing of FC Barcelona, one of the best football clubs in the world today).  These boys’ football skills were given a big boost by the Barcelona coaches who were joined by the counterparts from Mexico, the Philippines and England as they trained in Cebu’s Aboitiz Sports Field.   Among these six who hail from the tiny village of Barangay Jose, where poverty incidence can be as high as 60 percent, could be  the future  players who will play for clubs participating in the Philippine Football National League scheduled to start in 2017.

          There should not, however, exist a reverse discrimination against the children of the middle class and high-income households.  We should also expect boys from well-to-do families to aspire to be national football players.  Thanks to a project initiated by the Philippine Football Federation, in partnership with the PinoySports and the Alliance Global Group, Inc. (AGI), parent company of Emperador, Inc., the richest football club in the world, Real Madrid, sent to the Philippines world-class football coaches who trained kids in the National Capital Region and Aurora Province in October 2015.  Real Madrid is the most valuable sports team in the world, worth 2.5 billion Euros ($3.4) and world’s highest earning football club for 2013 to 2014.  We can be sure that the Real Madrid Foundation will have the wherewithals to sustain financial support to their projects in the Philippines for many years to come. The October 2015 football clinics were just the first of a series to be conducted as a result of a partnership agreement signed by AGI, PinoySports Foundation (promoted by former Senator Ed Angara) and the Real Madrid Foundation.  These clinics will be not only for kids from 6 to 14 of all social classes but also for coaches.  I am convinced that this generous gesture of Real Madrid Foundation will attract other well-endowed football clubs in the world, such as those from Germany, the U.K., Italy, France, Japan and South Korea,   to support similar initiatives in other key regions of the Philippines, such as Cebu. Iloilo, Dumaguete, Davao, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.

            On a more personal basis, I am glad to report that a school for boys in Cebu that is part of the Parents for Education Foundation in which I play an active part as an educational consultant, won recently the MILO football tournament in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.  Springdale is a school in Cebu managed by parents.  For many years now, football players from Springdale have been winning tournaments in football-conscious Central Visayas.  I can say the same thing about the epicenter of football in the Philippines, Iloilo, who produced the best ever player of FC Barcelona before Lionel Messi.   His name is Paulino Alcantara and was the son of a Spanish soldier and an Ilonga mother.  True to the traditions of Iloilo, and especially Barotac Nuevo, another PAREF school—Westbridge—in Iloilo has been producing excellent football players.  I agree with former Senator Ed Angara who was quoted as saying, “Filipinos have a good chance of excelling in football.”  Already at the lower social groups, Jarred, Kenneth and Julius have proved the realistic view of Senator Angara.  At the higher income groups, Springdale and Westbridge have done likewise.  I am sure my readers can add numerous other Filipino football achievers to my list, without even including the mestizos playing for the ASKALS.  Paraphrasing a line from Fox Sports TV, I say “Thank God There Is Football!”  For comments, my email address is