Monday, June 19, 2006

Let’s Send Ilonggos to the Next World Cup

The 2006 World Cup kicked off this month in Germany. In about every country in the world (except probably here in the Philippines), everyone is glued to their TV sets to watch who among the 32 competing nations will become this year’s World Cup champion. As proof of its worldwide popularity, the 2002 World Cup was watched by a cumulative total of 30 billion viewers, with 1 billion watching the Finals Match between Brazil and Germany. Sadly, the Philippines is not represented in the World Cup so we just have to content ourselves to cheering for other countries. I myself am rooting for defending-champion Brazil and hope that they will be able to replicate their spectacular victory against Germany in the last 2002 World Cup.

Back closer to home, our local version of the “World Cup” was held last June 8-15 in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. Football, unlike in other regions, is relatively popular in Western Visayas and there are several strong teams in Iloilo and Negros Occidental. The small town of Barotac Nuevo, in fact, has carved a niche for itself as the “Football Capital of the Philippines” owing to the big number of exceptional football players hailing from that municipality. Aside from the “Barotac Selection,” other notable football teams in the region are the Don Bosco club, the La Salle-Bacolod squad and Hiroshi Football Club.

It is often said that Filipinos have a greater chance in excelling in football because we are naturally nimble and swift. But despite the fact that we lack the height advantage, Filipinos still persist in basketball. Today, basketball remains the king of sports in this country and corners most of the corporate sponsorships. Superstar cagers here earn millions of pesos and idolized by millions of fans. One good example is basketball stand-out James Yap (who is Sagay, Negros Occidental) who is scheduled to marry popular actress and rich political heiress Kris Aquino.

But despite the lack of financial reward, our Ilonggo booters still play football out of pure love for the game.

We should aspire to send a team to the next World Cup scheduled in 2010. Four years is enough time to prepare for it if we start now. And our sports officials don’t have to look far to find good football players. The “Barotac Selection” is already a strong, cohesive team and could probably form the nucleus of a “Philippine World Cup Team.” Our World Cup team could further be strengthened by recruiting outstanding players from the other clubs.

Hell, if we were able to send Filipinos to Mt. Everest, I don’t see why we can’t send Filipinos to the World Cup. If smaller and much poorer countries can afford to send teams to the World Cup, I do not see why we cannot do the same. Tiny countries like Bhutan, Eritrea, Grenada, Togo and Tahiti all have teams competing there right now. And it is not as though corporate sponsors will not benefit from the publicity to be generated from sending a Philippine delegation to the World Cup. Remember, the World Cup is watched by more people in the world than the recently-concluded South East Asian Games and even the Olympics.

What the sport actually needs right now is a champion, an “enabler” who possesses the right vision, political influence and the right business connections to make it happen. Someone like Art Valdez (a Bacolodnon) who was able to pull off the Filipino conquest of Mt. Everest. One candidate that comes to mind is Bacolod City Congressman Monico Puentebella who is a long-time champion and a former football player himself. Another is Iloilo 4th District Representative Ferj Biron who is a generous benefactor of the game. Both are respected, influential leaders who have the financial wherewithal and political connections to make this dream become a reality.

1 comment:

jhay said...

Yebah! Dapat talaga sumali na tayo sa World Cup. Bakit hindi kasi nila maisip na mas malakas ang tsansa natin sa football. Sana nga lumakas ang suporta para sa larong ito.