FILIPINO FUTBOL CULTURE A Photo Essay by Luis Mercado

For a long time, if you tried to look if football held a place in the Philippines, more often than not, you wouldn't find much evidence. Despite having produced Paulino Alcantara, a Filipino who held the record for most goals scored (which stood for 87 years) at the legendary club FC Barcelona, there wasn't much that connected the Philippines to the world of football. It wasn’t until 2009 when we saw the start of “The Renaissance of Filipino Football" as Dan Palami took on the responsibility of managing the national team as he brought in a new drive to the team as well as funds and investments from his own pockets.

Palami brought in new, better talent that included several foreign-born Filipinos such as the Younghusband brothers, an aspect that brought in many new supporters who were interested to see the developments in Filipino Football. Since then, football’s popularity in the Philippines continues to rise just as the community continues to grow while introducing more and more aspects to football in the Philippines such as the several football leagues and youth clubs as well as the introduction (and improvement) of newer and better facilities for all to use. This photo essay aims to showcase the culture of football in the Philippines through it’s diversity and growth.

A young boy passes the ball around before a futsal match starts. Many youth camps have been opened up for young players to experience football for themselves.

With the National Team (nicknamed The Azkals) as well as the Philiippines' own collegiate and professional leagues being televised, football has gained a great amount of exposure and has increased it's popularity in the country. More Filipinos seem to be getting interested in trying football for themselves at a young age and there are many opportunities for them to get into the sport. Professional Clubs like Kaya FC and Loyola Meralco Sparks have created their own youth divisions, as well as an abundance of schools forming their own varsity teams, and even entirely new football camps like Futbol Funatics being created just to give the youth an opportunity to compete and train.

Alumni of Ateneo and La Salle battle for the ball during "The Duel".

As more and more new fans of football begin to emerge, old fans seem to re-emerge as well. Among all the youth players, sometimes you may see their parents playing alongside them. Just this year, the Weekend Futbol League (the non-professional tournament for more casual teams and players) has opened up a "Veterans Division" for teams aged 37 and older as there seemed to be an abundance of players well into their older years still playing against younger ones who were fresh out of college and in their prime.

"The Duel" is a annual tournament between consisting of divisions from Women's open to 50 and above. (Click to Zoom)

It seems almost imposssible to talk about any sport in the Philippines without mentioning one of the biggest rivalries in the country; Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University. Not only do they have fierce battles in the collegiate (and high school) level, but even after having graduated the rivalry still seems to continue. Many "Ateneans" and "La Salleans" have formed their own non-professional teams such as Loyola FC and Superbad (respectively), but it has even gotten to the point where there is an event for alumni of all ages to compete against their rival schools.

The Ateneo Women's Alumni gather for a huddle before their match.

Of course it is not just the men who are enjoying the football in the Philippines. Even though there is no official professional league for Filipinas, many women still play and experience football, especially in the collegiate level. Some women were even recruited to play for the Women's National team (nicknamed The Malditas) while still playing for their college.

A Payatas FC player leaps towards the ball at the Gawad Kalinga SipaG player's feet. Many players of teams like these cannot afford their own pair of shoes, so they can only rely on donations.

Football has an immense reach in the Philippines as it not only reaches those who are interested, but even those who may not have been lucky enough to be able to experience football in the first place. Several teams like Gawad Kalinga SipaG, Payatas FC, and Western Bicutan FC aim to develop grassroots football for the underpriviledged. These teams provide the opportunities that some of the players might not have been able to experience themselves, and at the same time they keep them pre-occupied and out of dangerous places. Gawad Kalinga often organizes their own tournaments such as the GK Ang Liga where they play futsal (the indoor equivalent of football). The Philippines has even been invited to the Homeless World Cup before and finished in the top 5.

A La Salle player keeps the ball close to his feet.

Of course it is not only opportunities that are created in the Philippines. Many footballing products have been created by Filipinos such as the kits created by LGR Sportswear for professional teams such as Socceroo FC and Global FC and even the Azkals at one point. Another Filipino made product are the göl balls (as seen above) used by many tournaments (like the Weekend Futbol League) and youth teams (like Futbol Funatics)

SPARTA (Sports and Recreational Training Center) field in mandaluyong is one of the many new facilities introduced in recent years. It is the only indoor Football field still currently running in the Philippines.

Some of the more large scale developments made in the Philippines include SPARTA field and BGC Turf which were created with much more recreational purposes in mind as any casual footballer may gain access and rent. Not only that, but stadiums were also built and some even improved such as the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley and the revamped Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. More recently, the giant Philippine Sports Stadium has been built and now serves as the home to the Azkals.

Futbol Funatics players cool down after a long training session surrounded by the urban office buildings, construction sites and carparks of BGC.
Created By
Luis Mercado

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