29 July 2012

The State of Football in Philippines

The Philippine National Football Team, or more commonly known as the Azkals to Filipinos, have garnered much praise from the country because of their success in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. Their long run in the tournament was well documented by the media in the Philippines, bringing a much excitement to not only the Footballing community in the country, but also to those who turned a blind eye to the sport. Throughout social media today, one can see many Filipinos from all around the country praising the Azkals and many even desiring to play football. Yes, the success of the national team has ushered a pride towards the team that I have never experienced when I wore the jersey, yet this pride is blind to the fact that the state of football in the country will only decay as fans continue to praise the team amidst of their poor performances in tournaments and friendly matches. The public will continue to support a group of foreign players while the Football Federation of the country is making undersized attempts to create future generations of successful footballers.

I stated that I played for the Philippine National Football Team, which is true. In fact, I represented the country a few years ago in a U13 tournament in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and wore the number ten. The tournament was special for me because I finished as the top scorer of the team, scoring two goals against Cambodia and one against Australia. The tournament was not delightful at all times. To be honest, the tournament was absolutely horrendous. Perhaps looking on the bright side of the tournament is what most people would do, but just winning two games and losing 10-0 against Thailand, 6-1 to Australia, and 3-0 to our Singaporean neighbors makes it very hard to look at the bright side. The tournament caused me to evaluate myself as a player and evaluate what the Federation is doing to bridge the gap in international competition.

An assumption that one can make about football in the Philippines is that the system only supports the wealthy. This was evident in the Palarong Pambansa tournament in 2008 wherein I competed and assisted in achieving a silver medal finish for the National Capital Region. As a late pre-tournament warm up match, we played against the Eastern Visayas Region. The kids that I faced were not equipped with the proper gear to participate in a football match. They had no shin pads, the shoes that they wore were not soccer boots and most of them were only wearing one shoe, clothes were too large, and they were living on Php200 for the whole two week stay.

Globally, football knows no religion, no race, no language, and no social status. People participate in the game because you are only judged on how good you are and nothing else. However, the Philippines has not yet immersed themselves in this truth. Playing in youth tournaments in Manila and the surrounding area, I was approached by a club in Makati that offered me to play with them in their yearly European tour. The club asked me to join them four times throughout my childhood and even proposed to pay 1,000 dollars to assist me to take part in this great opportunity, but my family just could not afford to pay for the trip. It’s heartbreaking to win numerous MVP awards, be top scorer of my club and school team, get a high school scholarship and yet I can’t take my talents to Europe just because of financial problems.

If you look at the roster of the Azkals, one can see that there is only a minute number of players coming from the Philippines. The players come from Germany, Spain, England, and the United States. A common fan would not mind the international flavor of our team, but coming from a footballer, this is a massive problem. How is the Philippines going to compete in international football again after these present players retire? How will you continue to attract players to wear the jersey that I love if they know that all the Federation expects is not to lost by ten goals? How are you going to attract youngsters to play the game if all they see is the team bringing shame to the country? The Football Federation should focus on grassroots football.

After leaving the country in early 2010 for the United States, my game matured and I became well-versed in the ways of football success. Club soccer, state soccer, high school soccer, academy soccer, professional soccer, and national team soccer…THERE’S SO MUCH SOCCER in this country! The success of soccer in the United States lies on the opportunity that the country gives to its youth. The opportunities given are available to all who desire to be a top player. Talent is found and it is cultivated to bring out the best from a young man or woman. Now I should return to addressing my country. I am proud of my country, but I will not be a blind fan who praises the team when we lose 10-0 to South Korea. The problems of football should be given a solution early before we go into another stint of football shame. If we continue to ride this wave of temporary small success, the wave will crash on the rocks by the shore. We will go through a footballing circle of long failures in the international scene with petty achievements from time to time. The country will become pathetic once again.

The Night Shift


  1. Jonny, I don't think this belongs here. this is a 16 yr-old kid's blog post. nothing substantial to actual news, right? right.

  2. And so... the sickest country in Asia, economically, politically and socially will continue to deny its citizens the right to a decent life at home, including the right of its kids to have the space and support to take part in the most popular and most classless sport on the planet...

  3. yes there's lots of issues in philippine football but this is just flat out sour graping! useless.

  4. This kid left in 2010 before interest in football took off. I don't think he realizes that the PFF is finally taking the long delayed steps in grassroots development that will eventually increase the level of the sport long term at home. It will take some time and for the older age groups, we will have to get used to scores that he mentioned in the short term.

    Now he is exposed to the heightened soccer activity here in the US and I don't think it is fair for him to compare the opportunities he has now to what he was receiving in the Philippines. What he forgot to mention is the economic disparity bet. the US and the Philippines and the fact that the US decades ago used to be like the Philippines, a country that didn't care about soccer and whose national team was made up in large part of immigrants or foreign born players. The USSF at one time had difficulty raising funds for their national team and would only call them up just like us fairly recently, a few weeks or in many cases a few days before a major tournament. That is why they never made it to the World Cup for a period of nearly 40 years(legitimately more like 60 since the 1950 World Cup team where they won their only game against England was accomplished using 3 players who were not American citizens at that time including their goal scorer Gaetjens who went back to his native Haiti soon after and was murdered). They even resorted to calling up non citizens(at a time when FIFA rules were a little more relaxed on the issue) to represent them as is detailed in this article on bigsoccer:


    As detailed in the above article, the US has had a long history of using foreign born players in the team and still continues to do so today. I know this since I have been following them since the 1990's. They finally made the World Cup in the 1990's with the help of German and Dutch born players Dooley and Stewart, exploiting loopholes in the US immigration law to recruit in an expedited manner David Regis who only got in through his wife, and using their soccer loving immigrant base to strengthen the team either by adding recent Americans or their children which if you investigate their current national team is still the same situation today. In a country largely built on the back of its immigrants, Americans do not consider this something to be ashamed of but on the contrary something that is typically American.

  5. The USSF today has one of the strongest programs in the world dedicated to looking for foreign born players who might be eligible for US citizenship at all age levels(I think they have a database of eligible players numbering in the high hundreds thanks largely through the efforts of former U-20 coach Dutch born Thomas Rongen), and specifically has more than a handful of players(Chandler, Jones, William, Johnson, Boyd and Morales) in the current national team pool, who are German born and raised players playing in the GermanBundesliga or other top leagues in Europe. Of that group, Tim Chandler although he has 8 caps already for the US in friendlies, is still undecided at this time, which country to represent.

    Waiting in the wings behind those five are other German-American players who may also compete for a spot on the national team as 2014 draws closer. David Yelldell, a goalkeeper, made his United States national team debut against Paraguay in March last year. Six other German-Americans and other foreign born players are on a separate roster that was put together to compete albeit ultimately unsuccessfully in the Olympic qualifiers.

    A lot of their other players on the national team are 2nd generation Americans both in years gone by and today, children of immigrants who grew up loving football in their countries of origin.

    Yet Americans embrace their team regardless of where they come from, specifically because their players is typical of the American immigrant success story, something they take pride in.

    This is what German born US coach Klinsman has to say in the matter:

    “The way things go with soccer globally, we have many more players to come that have dual citizenship and grew up in a different place,” he said. “This is how France won the World Cup in 1998.”

    He added, “You see the global chase for players and we’re part of that.”

    Mr. Obeso, is right in pointing out that the grassroots development in the Philippines needs to be emphasized, but what he forgot to mention are the belated efforts being done today to remedy the situation and this was only made possible, because of the popularity of our national team, who regardless of origin, are made up of players with genuine Filipino blood, which you couldn't always say of American players through the ages.

  6. Sus, CJ, why so many words to say what could have been said in one sentence: It will be a long time before the NT can compete against any other NT without Fil-fors.
    And what's this nonsense about German/Dutch players with surnames like Dooley, Stewart, Boyd, Chandler, Jones etc?
    Can't find any of those names in a Deutschland phone directory.

    1. They are usually children of American military serviceman with German brothers who were born and raised in Germany. That is why they have English sounding names. I know our Filipino players have foreign sounding names and that is just because they have Filipino mothers instead of fathers. In some cases btw, they don't even speak English very well, but they are considered American just the same. We should learn from them.

    2. Oops I meant German mothers although they might indeed have German brothers if their mother remarried. haha

    3. As to why I use so many words, I always find that it is easier to convince people of your line of reasoning, if you cite examples and logically explain yourself calmly, rather than just rant and rave about the righteousness of your cause without rhyme or reason like I have encountered in many forums. Don't you agree? (-:

  7. He does have some valid points, and those are pretty clear imo. Somethings have changed, but when it comes to developing homegrown talents, we are way way behind. Even Timor Leste has an interesting youth team, but what about the Philippines? They have the U14 which have some decent results, not the best, but they will too, soon be the whipping boys of Asia.

    And with the recent developments in the UFL, where teams keep on signing foreigners, where will the talented players play? Where will they develop into good players, in the local 7aside festival? Sooner or later, more and more foreigners will open up their eyes to the UFL. More and more teams will sign foreigners forcing local talents out in the cold. Only a handful of the teams in the UFL are good, while the rest arent up to par. Division 2 has no quality except for the top 2 teams, where Pachanga was amazing. So, where will they play? Expansion is one option, and the other is the Smart sponsored league which will have a new format this year. But i cant say im optimistic for the future of the homegrown players.

    1. Actually I am in favor of having quality foreigners in the UFL. It is the only way the local players will improve. I am sure there will come a time when the UFL will have to implement a quota on the number of foreigners per team, if only to comply with AFC criteria, as we start competing in their tournaments, but they serve a very important purpose in the league competitively, marketing wise and from the prospect of the football knowledgeable fan who prefers to be entertained by watching quality soccer.

  8. As for developing the local players, I suggest forming reserve teams who play in a reserve league or as the UFL apparently is encouraging teams to do, forming developmental youth teams that will also compete against each other. Those who show promise can then be promoted to the men's team. Competition always brings out the best in athletes and those who have to work hard to get promoted usually do better.

  9. what the kid referring is all true....provinces dont have enough equipment, budget, training, even no one cares for but still they challenge the well equipped provinces and even toppling down the favorite region in sports funding.....disparity and favoritism is the word...when will the phls will learn.....he has the right to compare he is just a kid...what he was his experience here and abroad. ika nga if the local government or the national or pff has the will they can do it...though thanks to the fil-fors for saving the football shame and rebuild the sport again but for how long????pinoy pa siskat ang sport kung may puting magaling na naglalaro sa team....hehehe.....i can relate the frustration of the kid as what was happening in the calamba city football program...last feb 9-12, prince al-husseini of jordan funded and inaugurate the football tournament and program of calamba....even built a field 1 a standard size field and 2 for a training field....well after 5 months, where's the fund?and what happen to the field and the program????