street child world cup

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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