Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Philippine Football: A comeback after a century

Philippine Football: A comeback after a century by Mike Belza
I have been a football enthusiast even before but only had my eyes on Philippine Football after the victorious run of the Homeless Team in Brazil last September winning the Homeless World Cup: Host Cup and the recent rise of Azklas in the ASEAN football community with the 1st semis for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

When the HWC Team arrived and hosted a homecoming and victory party in the Jeepney Headquarters in Valley Golf, Cainta, I definitely wanted to be there. Seeing and feeling their happiness with their win in Brazil over a powerhouse Norway was priceless. The eight-man squad is definitely the start of what we are capable of in football.

There are a lot of “good” homegrown talents here but with the right program and experience, these talents can be “better”. In fact, if you have been to Barotac Football Fiesta, you know what I mean. Most of these kids play without shoes and shin guards to protect them. But it was never a hindrance for them to love the sport. With this being said, the notion that football or soccer (for many) is not a sport for those on Class A and B only. I have seen these kids play more than once and they are undeniably as talented as the kids in Spain and Brazil. 

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF), as a governing body for the sport should re-introduce the sport in all schools here in the Philippines, may be it private or public (well, especially the public schools). When I was in college, we never had football as part of our PE curriculum considering we have a spacious ground for the sport. There are already a number of football clinics every summer but a few are interested because they are not familiar with the sport. I bet if you asked who Paulino Alcantara or Pele or Maradona is most wouldn’t have any clue. Educating them with the sport will bring about a huge difference on what we currently have now. The “fad” that we have now still isn’t enough for everyone to know how beautiful the game is. We need some education and later on use that to play the sport. I’ll bet that most of the Filipinos who are into Azkals really don’t understand the sport but they are just cheering for them because of the good looks of our players (true). But that is a good start. Later on we will start “googling” facts and learn more about the sport. On how the game is being played, rules and terms such as offside, penalty kick, free kick, throw in and etcetera.

The Philippine National Football Team gave our nation pride and respect both at the same time. Pride for their outstanding run on AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying for the first time in the semis (and almost to the finals if we had a home stadia) and respect from the football community around the globe. For a short period of time, they became an international sensation and never before in the 21st century that football became more popular than basketball here in the Philippines. In the early 20th century, our Azkals dominated the region with their glorious run on the late Far East Games. If you do the math, it took football almost a century to regain its glory here in the Philippines. That’s not good for the sport when all other nations around the world are advancing and taking it all to another level. But was it a good comeback? Yes and no I’d say. Yes. People are starting to appreciate the sport. Many private companies and organization are “riding the waves” as they see that this is a good marketing strategy, perhaps. Lastly, it’s a very good publicity. Everyone knows about Azkals, thanks to Philippine and international media and oh let’s not forget the internet and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. On the other hand, No. That comeback after a century shows how bad we are in sports development in general. It showed in the recent supposed to be home and away semis when the AFF committee denied our petition to have a “home” game, the reason of which was we don’t have any stadia with international standards. How can we develop homegrown talents when we don’t have the capacity and equipment?

I read somewhere (which I cannot remember anymore, my apologies) from a spokesperson of Ghana on Youth and Sports Development that for a country to regain its image in sports, particularly football or soccer, the authorities have to define their objectives clearly and prosecute them conclusively enough through concerted efforts. He also added that if the problems are not tackled vigorously, the aim of winning a cup would be a mirage and participation in a World Cup would remain a dream.

Now, that’s something to think about.

 The author (left) with the HWC's Lexter Maravilla. 

Thanks for sending this Mike! Will save you a copy of the official 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup programme and the starting lineups from all the Azkals' matches. Drop me an email on how you want to get them. Thanks again and Happy New Year!
                 - Rick