Press Release
April 6, 2008

The people's sport

At least a billion people watch the quadrennial World Cup, the most watched athletic event.

With today's media technology capable of showing all games of the tournament live at every corner of the world, it seems football is the one thing that can unite people of different races and religions.

In Brazil, offices and schools shut down when their team has a match. It unites people whether in the glory of victory or the agony of defeat. South Korea and Japan have already made great strides in the sport, having participated in two successive World Cups. In most Southeast Asian countries, except for the Philippines, football is the national sport.

While the whole world is glued to football, we Filipinos look like the odd man out.

While football is the world's most popular sport, it is not the case here. Filipinos prefer basketball, a sport we have very little hope of excelling in. And even if we were to overtake China, the regional champion, we will definitely be unable to take on the Europeans and Americans. Height is still might.

Football, on the other hand, is something we can actually be good at. It is our natural sport. One does not need to be a six-footer. It is a game of skill, endurance and speed, all of which Filipino youth naturally possess.

Last February, a team of football coaches from the Andalusia, Spain-based Centro de Estudios, Desarollo e Investigación del Fútbol Andaluz (CEDIFA) held a 4-day training course at the Aurora National Science High School in Baler, Aurora upon the invitation of Senator Edgardo J. Angara. A similar course was conducted in Bago, Negros Occidental under the auspices of former Cong. Carlos O. Cojuangco.

The CEDIFA team was composed of football experts Francisco López Servio (director), Maor Rozen, Pablo Bombarelli García and Juan José Guerra Martín.

The course had the following modules: tactic (10 hours); technique (8 hours); sports training (12 hours); sports organization, rules of the game (3 hours); team management (3 hours) and video presentation, actual training (4 hours). CEDIFA also donated footballs, audiovisual materials and sports gear like shirts and vests.

Sixty elementary school students, 83 high school students and 32 coaches from the 8 municipalities of Aurora participated in the course.

After the course, the students competed against each other in the semi-finals. The winning teams then competed in the finals that were held in the afternoon. The Spanish coaches and their local counterparts also played in a friendly exhibition match.

The training course was capped by an awarding ceremony. Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara Castillo urged the students and coaches to take the sport seriously and pledged support in behalf of Senator Angara and Cong. Juan Edgardo Angara. The winning teams and best strikers and goalkeepers for the elementary and high school levels received medals from CEDIFA and trophies from Governor Castillo and Senator Angara.

Lopez, director of CEDIFA, has nothing but praises for the players. "They are agile, fast learners and have an innate talent for the sport. All it takes is to demonstrate the proper form and movement and the players pick it up quickly. Height poses no problem unlike in basketball."

In fact, the Aurora team won 2nd place for football in the regional meet, and is set to compete at the national meet of the Central Luzon Regional Atheletic Association (CLRAA) under DepEd in late April.

CEDIFA is pushing for the football training course to become a nationwide program. While in Manila, they met with National Economic Development Authority Deputy Director Rolando Tungpalan to present the proposed football project for the Philippines. According to DDG Tungpalan, the proposal is timely inasmuch as the medium-term plan of the Philippines is being reviewed. This includes the proposal to revive the cultural exchange program - education and sports being part of it - between the Philippines and Spain.

It's time our sports leaders took up this cause more vigorously and prominently. Football is one sport where we can easily excel, with the tremendous bonus of insulating our youth from the perils of drugs. If we devoted enough time, money and attention to the sport, the Philippines can become a soccer power.

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