Isn't it time for football, Philippines?

On December 5, 2010 – The news of the evening was Team Philippines’ “stunning”, “historic” victory over Suzuki Cup defending champion Vietnam.

According to Inquirer.net, “The Philippines pulled off the most stunning win in the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-0 blanking of defending champion Vietnam Sunday night before a boisterous crowd of close to 40,000 at the My Ding Stadium here.”

ABSCBNnews.com, on the other hand, described the upset as due to “deadly finishing and no-nonsense defending.”

The victory “shocked”, “silenced”, and “humbled” host country Vietnam and clearly put the Philippines on the football map, as sports anchors exclaimed, “The Philippines makes history!”, while announcing the results of the game.

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Team Philippines celebrates with other teams in the 2009 Milan Homeless World Cup
Team Philippines celebrates with other teams in the 2009 Milan Homeless World Cup, where the author and her husband were volunteers | Photo by Nina Terol-Zialcita

But this isn’t the first time for the Philippines to make a remarkable showing on the football pitch. In September this year, Team Philippines of the Homeless World Cup posted its best performance in three years as it took home the Host Cup in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. True to its name, players of this particular brand of football are homeless youth from different parts of the Philippines.

In March 2010, another group of streetchildren from Manila beat the team from Brazil, home of single-name football legends Pele and Kaka, in the Street Child World Cup in Durban, South Africa.

The victories of all of these teams–professional and amateur alike–showed that the Philippines is ready for football, a sport which has no height requirement and which can maximize the Filipino’s inherent speed, dexterity, nimbleness, and flexibility.

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Then, just this weekend, acclaimed filmmaker Jim Libiran (Tribu) also announced the completion of his independent film Happyland, a narrative about petty-thieving, rugby-sniffing streetchildren in Tondo whose lives were transformed by street soccer. The film was developed together with a street soccer program called “Futkal” or “Futbol sa Kalye”, where real-life Tondo youth were taught football and then used as actors in the film. The movie also used the crowdfunding model, raising funds not only from large corporate sponsors but also from individuals, to spread the good news that football can bring.

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Three historic football wins plus one equally trailblazing movie in the same year when World Cup fever hit the Philippines. Could this be a sign that the Philippines will now be joining the rest of the world in playing what is perhaps the most loved, the most passion-inducing, and–on many fronts–the best game on the planet?

And, considering our poor global record in Pinoys’ most beloved game (basketball, what else?) and the fact that we always have to import Filipino-Americans to keep the game alive and interesting in the Philippines, isn’t it about time that we finally switched to a game that was made just for people like us?

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Niña Terol-Zialcita

Niña Terol-Zialcita is a “Communicator, Connector, idea Curator, and Changemaker” who uses the power of words and ideas to advocate causes and promote the Philippines at its best. She is ProPinoy.net’s Deputy Editor, as well as Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler, the longest-running travel magazine in the Philippines. When she is not writing, blogging, or traveling, Niña is conducting writing workshops with Writer’s Block Philippines, hanging out at art galleries and cafés, and performing poetry with her husband, percussionist and performance artist Paul Zialcita. She is also the author of the book "[r]evolutionaries: The new generation of Filipino youth and youth organizations".

  • In countries like Brazil, futbol as it is spelled over there is considered both a religion and a sport. Every shanty boy’s dream is to become a football player one day and to earn his way out of poverty in this manner.

    There is still much required for the game to travel the same distance in our country. For one, there is no commercially viable league. I was at the opening of the Metro Football League years ago, where the crowd was quite sparse. It is being kept alive in the Philippines by children of mixed Filipino ancestry who play for European-based clubs: another benefit of Filipino diaspora perhaps, but not home grown as it were. Their decision to play for their (mother’s presumably) home country instead of their host country which may not need them as much is still a reflection of national pride.

    With regard to the style of play, Vietnam’s Portuguese manager attacked it for being a bit cynical. The same strategy adopted by Jose Mourinho in defeating the might Barca team of Leonel Messi at the UEFA Champions League. Also a tactic employed by Guus Hiddinck with Australia and Chelsea. A defense oriented, counter-attacking type of football, which has its moments, but perhaps is not considered as elegant. The football world is really divided between these two opposing philosophies. Should our national football culture follow down this path if it produces results? Or should we play the beautiful game as others say it should be played? That is a question we may not have the luxury of asking at this point.

  • In countries like Brazil, futbol as it is spelled over there is considered both a religion and a sport. Every shanty boy’s dream is to become a football player one day and to earn his way out of poverty in this manner.

    There is still much required for the game to travel the same distance in our country. For one, there is no commercially viable league. I was at the opening of the Metro Football League years ago, where the crowd was quite sparse. It is being kept alive in the Philippines by children of mixed Filipino ancestry who play for European-based clubs: another benefit of Filipino diaspora perhaps, but not home grown as it were. Their decision to play for their (mother’s presumably) home country instead of their host country which may not need them as much is still a reflection of national pride.

    With regard to the style of play, Vietnam’s Portuguese manager attacked it for being a bit cynical. The same strategy adopted by Jose Mourinho in defeating the might Barca team of Leonel Messi at the UEFA Champions League. Also a tactic employed by Guus Hiddinck with Australia and Chelsea. A defense oriented, counter-attacking type of football, which has its moments, but perhaps is not considered as elegant. The football world is really divided between these two opposing philosophies. Should our national football culture follow down this path if it produces results? Or should we play the beautiful game as others say it should be played? That is a question we may not have the luxury of asking at this point.