GAME seven may be the two best words in sports. But its best moment always happens when it transcends competition.
As the UFL League nears its conclusion, a two clubs are set to head down south to not just shake the table but also give hope to a conflict-stricken part of the country.
Loyola-Meralco FC, which sits at third place of the 12-team table, will face seventh-place Green Archers United in Zamboanga City as part of the initiative called “Football for Peace.”
Not only will the two teams try to improve their standings in the table, the players will also conduct clinics for 200 kids in the area.
Belay Fernando, the assistant general manager of the Sparks, said Football for Peace was conceptualized back in 2011 when the Philippine Marine Corps stationed in Mindanao wanted to help kids in conflict-riddled areas.
“They (the Marines) wanted to promote sports specifically football to the kids who are used to a certain way of life,” said Fernando Thursday night on SportsIQ, Inquirer’s live omni platform sports talk show. “They’re more prone to carrying guns than books, guns than soccer balls.”
Sparks head coach Simon McMenemy, who went to Tawi-Tawi in 2015 with his team, said such clinics are used to give the kids opportunities to develop not only their sporting abilities but also their social skills.
“You go to these clinics, you’re not looking to go find David Beckham you’re going to go down there and give opportunities for kids to play together especially in that part of the world you’ve got rival families, you’ve got rival towns, you’ve got so much rivalry going all over the place,” said McMenemy. “To be involved in a project that promotes that and be able to do that for the Philippines was a real honor for a foreigner coming into a country.”
Sparks midfielder James Younghusband said their first game in Zamboanga has the potential to further promote football in the country, a nation obsessed with basketball.
“People in Zamboanga get to experience football for the first time, and that’s one of our goals to promote the sport,” said Younghusband.
Green Archers striker Chieffy Caligdong playing in Zamboanga is their part in helping Mindanao achieve peace.
In 2013, Zamboanga became a combat zone when renegade members of the Moro National Liberation Front attacked the city, killing 220, including 12 civilians.
“Playing football in Zamboanga City, we would be able to touch everybody’s lives and yung kids para ma-inspire sila and para sa mga tao na ma-encourage maglaro ng football,” said Caligdong.