From barangay leagues to the international stage, the Philippines is fielding greater talent than ever before as Pinoys are getting into the Beautiful Game. With the help of numerous football developmental programs, young athletes of today are being trained and nurtured to become the country’s next football sensations.
After all, every successful athlete has to start somewhere.
Among the most established programs for budding footballers is the Alaska Power Camp, where kids learn from a team of professional coaches along with former and present members of the Philippine Azkals and First Division players of the United Football League under the lead of Real Madrid’s Tomas Lozano. Among the Camp’s successful alumni are longtime national team captain Aly Borromeo, and Gonzalez himself.
“The Alaska Power Camp Program is player-focused. At all times the welfare of our players is of first and paramount importance,” said Lozano. “The camp provides each player a unique experience in which positive values and behavior can be realized. The program focuses on enjoyment and the general and technical development of the player without the pressure to win or get results.”
For those looking to join their young ones on the field, the United Football League’s (UFL) Team Socceroo had ‘Firstkick’, which let parents and their kids bond on the field in a fun, 2-day event designed to introduce the sport to children as young as five years old.
With Philippine interest in the sport at an all-time high, even foreign football clubs have begun taking notice. Among the first to get in on the action was Chelsea FC, which joined forces with the Younghusband Football Academy to form a developmental ground for upcoming talent. Other European teams testing the waters in the Philippines were Manchester United, which held a 3-day program early last year and, the year before that, FC Barcelona’s Escola, which partnered with the Team Socceroo. Real Madrid even had their “Goooal!” series of clinics that doubled as fundraisers for charity.
Speaking in a press conference for the latter, Real Madrid Vice President and CEO for Asia Pacific Luis Fernandez said, “The sports and the football are very, very important for us: for the education, for the values… Real Madrid is very, very happy to be here.”
On the homefront, grassroots initiatives like the Futkaleros and the Philippine Football Federation’s Kasibulan continue to make strides in introducing football to the underprivileged through programs that double as introductions to life.
On the growing popularity of the sport, Freddy Gonzales, widely considered to be the finest Filipino player to lace up a pair of cleats since the heyday of FC Barcelona’s legendary Paulino Alcantara, told TV5, “I’m happy that football is finally growing, finally getting the attention of the people. Masaya ako para sa kanila.”
Through all of these assorted programs, the popularity of football in the country will continue to rise and, as development of children’s’ in-game skills increases, so too will their exposure to the values of determination, discipline, hard work, teamwork and sportsmanship. As Filipino footballers strive to improve their games in nurturing, wholesome environments, there is no doubt that, through sport, they will grow to become individuals that can play a part in shaping their communities for the better.