There was a World Cup-esque feel for around 500 kids, who along with their parents and relatives, trooped to the Ayala Alabang Country Club field last Sunday, May 20 to excitedly take part in the Alaska Football Festival.
Boys and girls from as young as 3 years old up to 18 tried their best to channel Lionel Andres Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, and other football greats they look up to, on the 12 football pitches. You could feel their determination to prove themselves – their elation for every shot that went in or for every save that a keeper made, their disappointment with every goal conceded or a miscue committed.
On the sidelines, unmindful of the searing heat, stood dads and moms. They were cheering, occasionally shouting instructions while capturing the action on their DSLRs. They were saluting their siblings for a job well done, giving a pat on the back and “we’ll-beat-them-next-time, kiddo” words of encouragement if they’re down. After every game, players would shakethe hands of their opponents one by one, acknowledging the effort the opposing side also exerted. Some even shared light moments in the photo booth or puzzle booth, or milk and choco stations with players from the other teams.
All part of “the beautiful game” that is football.
“It’s a very enjoyable and great experience,” Kristiana Ciara Pickering, 14, described her overall experience throughout summer, from the Alaska Football Power Camp to the Alaska Football Festival, where she won the girls’ MVP while playing for the champion white team.
“It’s fun, exciting. You get to meet a lot of friends, battle a lot of strong guys,” echoed Yu Izeki Alejandro dela Torre, and FredericoFrancesco while relaxing at the booths put up by Alaska to add up to the festive atmosphere of the whole-day affair.
In jest, Alejandro added: “We got to drink unlimited milk.” Of course, there’s more to it than a steady supply of healthy Alaska Milk. Tomas Lozano, Project Director of the Alaska Football Power Camp and Alaska Football Festival, the endeavor is designed not only to train kids to be fit and adept at dribbling, passing, heading, and striking, but also to help them grow into good persons by instilling the values of discipline, hard work, teamwork and determination.
“Aside from football, we also emphasize moral values. I, personally, and Alaska Milk give a lot of importance to moral discipline and overall attitude of the children,” said Spanish Tomas, a former international player and founder-director of the Makati Football School since 1976. “We want to mold children not only in terms of football but to help them be good citizens, friendly, disciplined and strong,” he added. Kids, themselves, and their parents recognized and appreciated the lessons that the sport impart and the gains to be enjoyed.
“Playing football teaches us how to stand up for ourselves, take care of what we have and learn to balance things. You can’t just play football and forget about studies. It teaches us to discern what is too much and what’s just enough, what’s helpful and what’s not,” said Ciara.
“We learn the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship,” noted Kyle Jarque, 15. His teammate Noel Cabe, 16, added honesty to the list. “We learn to become honest. This will come into play during a game situation when the ball’s supposed to be out of boundsand the referee is not firm on his call.”
“Soccer mom” Len de Guzman noticed how her three kids – Vincent, 10, Daniel, 8, and Jacob, 6 – have improved their social skills while keeping active and fit. “What I like about the soccer camp is that they learn the importance of teamwork and how to socialize with other players,” Len said, adding she’s taking advantage of the sport to make her boys occupied with physical activities. “Instead of spending time in front of TV, they are doing something active.”
Joel and AmorlinaBalagot, who are both with the Philippine Army, liked the health benefits football brings to their 15-year-old twins Maria Joelin and Maria Monalisa, and 7-year old son Joel Vincent. “Since we’re with the military and both athletic, we want our kids to be healthy, strong and have stamina, not sickly,” said Amorlina, noting how sports have somehow lessened Joelin’s asthma attacks, aside from making the children more “obedient” to instructions.
The sessions in the football field had become some sort of family moments for participants. For the Balagots, bonding time got a twist during the Alaska Football Festival as twins Joelin and Monalisa were assigned to different teams. Joelin’s red played against Monalisa’s yellow right in their first match.
“That’s okay with us, it won’t matter whoever wins as long as one of us gets a medal,” said Joelin, whose team prevailed over her sister’s in that “showdown” and eventually won silver.
“Our yellow team placed fourth but I’m happy that at least Ate got second,” offered Monalisa.
Such moments of victories and defeats are the opportune time for parents to teach their kids how to best handle these extreme situations.
“If they win, I tell them to be graceful, congratulate the other team for a good game. If they lose, I motivate them to work harder, stress to them that the other team is only better because they’ve worked harder than you did,”shared mom Len, adding she’ll also advise kids “to have fun no matter what, win or lose.” Rewards come to the “soccer moms and dads,” too.
“I’ve met a lot of new friends, too,” said Len. “And since the kids are outdoors, I’ve also become more active by following them around the fi eld. It’s become a family activity already.” The Alaska Football Festival served as the culminating activity of the Alaska Football Power Camp, gathering the graduates of the long-running football clinics for a mini tournament, which, according to Tomas, offered “awards, trophies, medals and happiness for all.”
Now on its 17th year, the Alaska Football Power Camp ran April through May with sessions at the Fort (Army’s Ascom fi eld), Turf at Bonifacio Global City, and Alabang Country Club.
“We’re basically a training school. In a two hour program, almost one and a half hour is dedicated to two elements – physical fitness and football skills,” Tomas said.
“We teach passing, dribbling, heading, all components of the game and then at the end of practice day, play a little. By doing that, you give children confidence, help them become better players and obviously, they’re happier and more content,” he added.
In November, some of the graduates will see action in a more competitive setting in the Alaska Football Cup, the biggest football tournament in the country featuring some of the best teams in the Philippines.
The summer camp, according to aspiring footballers Kyle and Noel, offered a good training ground for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo wannabes like them.
“It was helpful. We learned the basics; if we just train by ourselves, we can only do kicking. Plus the camp has many good facilities and gave us a lot of opportunities to play,” stated Kyle, a varsity for Lourdes School.
Helping kids become better athletes and better persons is in line with Alaska Milk’s advocacy on youth development through sports, according to Alaska Sports Development Manager CK Kanapi.
“Alaska MIlk Corporation is not only known for nutrition, it’s also known for sports. So as much as possible, since technology is common now to kids, we try to make them still do the same lifestyle of going out to the field, enjoying the sun, and getting a healthier life by having sports,” CK said.
The values to be learned are abundant. Thru the Alaska Football Festival, Alaska Milk has always believed that when childrenplay sports at an early age, key values suchas discipline, hard work, teamwork and determination become rooted into their everyday life. These fundamental values not only aid them in developing character; ultimately, these are qualities that are very essential in order to gain success that goes beyond the game of Football.