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[OPINION] PFF Elections 2019: A plea

The Philippine Azkals have just concluded their final match for 2019 in Dubai, giving a short lull for in football proceedings before all attention by most Filipino football fans and stakeholders get channeled to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be held in Manila.

And as the football events kick off in the SEA Games, with fans busy in showing their support to the U-22 men and women’s teams in their respective campaigns, a much more important event that would significantly influence the course of Philippine football in the next few years is about to happen: The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Congress where the elections for the new administration will happen.

In the coming November 29 elections, two parties will be vying for the presidential spot. One incumbent seeking a fourth term, while the other – a tenured official in the sport – is running for the highest office for the first time.

Both have plans, good ones (on paper, at least), but here’s the thing: As with any elections, only one candidate can win. And the fates of both will lie on the most crucial players come the main event – the FA representatives.

As of the moment, there are 36 associations (33 regional FA’s and 3 pro clubs) that make up the PFF. Each of these has a leader or president that will serve as the representative in the congress and has the power to vote come elections on who will be the next head of the federation.

So here are my statement and plea to the regional FA leaders who have the ability to choose the next head of Philippine football: VOTE WISELY! This will be the occasion that each of you wields an immense power – YOUR VOTE. Study the platforms of the two hopefuls carefully, including their respective track records. In your hands lie the immediate future of football.

Please, don’t take it for granted. It’s on you.

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PFF U15: Group A concludes with NCR FA, NOFA heading to final round

A superb 2-5 win by National Capital Region FA (NCR FA) and a 3-0 victory via default in favor of Negros Occidental FA (NOFA) see both teams finish in the top two respectively in Group A of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Under-15 Boys National Championship which concluded last November 19 in the PFF Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

In the early morning opener, a first half hat-trick by Dominic Tom (18′,37, 44′) edged out a promising resistance presented by Laguna FA with goals from Vincent Aaron Saludo (24′) and Louis Angelo Junio (29′) as the capital region’s representatives were able to nurse a slim 2-3 advantage heading into the break.

However, Laguna had no reply to an Andrei Gonzales 55th minute conversion which was then followed by a 69th minute Rodrigo Mariñas cushion in the second half, as NCR FA marched on to the final round of the competition in fine form.

Laguna FA and NCR FA post-match group photo

For the subsequent fixture of the day, NOFA had their undefeated run in Group A confirmed without kicking a ball as they were awarded a 3-0 win via default when Cordillera RFA were a no show.

According to officials, via info gathered, Cordillera already left for Baguio last Saturday (November 16) presumably without any intent of playing their final match. It is yet being mulled on the sanction details that will be filed against the regional FA.

With the result, NOFA joins NCR FA to the final round with both teams getting an identical haul of 10-points (NCR edging the Western Visayans only through goal difference) in the standings.

However, with Group B still yet to commence after games were suspended indefinitely due to the recent earthquakes in Mindanao, determining who will complete the cast for the final round and the schedule on when the semifinals will begin are still to be determined.

Photo credit: PFF U15 Boys National Championship Facebook page

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Azkals top-scorer and ‘Living Legend’ Phil Younghusband retires from football

Right at the eve of the Philippine Azkals’ World Cup 2022 qualifier match against Syria, the country’s best goalscorer ever, Phil Younghusband, announced his retirement from the beautiful game which he posted via social media.

After a lengthy absence from football beginning on the end of the 2018 Copa Paulino Alcantara when his club Davao Aguilas lost in the final against Kaya FC Iloilo, which was further lengthened after being married and adjusting to the new lifestyle, it seems one of Philippines’ most recognizable sportsmen decided to hang up his boots for good.

The 32-year-old Filipino footballer was born in Surrey, England to a Filipino mother and an English father, and along with his older brother James Younghusband, began their young career within famous London-based club Chelsea FC’s youth ranks before embarking on and blazing a trail towards a fruitful and influential career in the Philippines beginning in 2009, playing with San Beda FC, Loyola Meralco Sparks (later known as Meralco Manila), and Davao Aguilas.

But Phil Younghusband’s biggest contribution to Philippine Football is his involvement with the Azkals which started in 2007 when he, along with brother James, decided to represent their mother’s roots, the Philippines, in international competition from the U21 side up until the senior squad.

A reliable and confident finisher in front of goal, Phil eventually racked up goals almost at will until amassing 52 conversions under his name which became the most scored for the Philippines in history.

His most important moment for the Philippines was scoring the second goal in the 79th minute against hosts Vietnam in the group stage of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, a major upset that has been dubbed as “Miracle of Hanoi” which then further boosted the country’s already newfound renaissance in international football.

Such was the immensity of his contributions to the squad that he also became the most capped player ever for the Southeast Asian nation with 108 in total.

An unexpected surprise

After Phil’s post, an outpouring of reactions and plaudits immediately came in reply from fans and colleagues alike, most especially from the football community such as former teammates and coaches.

Photo credit: The Philippine Football Federation

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FIFA WCQ2022: Azkals captain Stephan Schröck looks for redemption against Syria

Just after the Philippine Azkals reignited their campaign and hopes of progressing to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after getting a 2-1 win against hosts Maldives last November 14, national team captain Stephan Schröck is looking forward to a better showing against a formidable Syrian side on November 19 in Dubai.

Speaking to the media during their pre-departure flight to United Arab Emirates, Azkals team captain Stephan Schröck shared the overall positive morale of the squad after getting the much needed win that put them in the same points haul with China in Group A standings.

“The (team) spirit is very good at the moment. Of course if you level points with China ( in the group) after four games… Who would have thought this (promising situation)?

“Now, if we get a good result against Syria we can maybe go out of the hunt (for survival) and look for something even bigger (in the next round).”

The Ceres-Negros talisman and spark-plug also heaped praise to his teammates who scored goals against Maldives, Iain Ramsay and John-Patrick Strauss.

“Both of them really had a good game and they deserve (scoring) these goals.

“Iain (Ramsay) worked very hard. (John-Patrick) Strauss was all over the place, chasing everyone over the pitch.”

The captain also did not forget to commend the whole squad during the course of the entire match.

“The whole team (gave) a great performance… We showed character in the second half.”

When asked about the upcoming return match against Syria (The Azkals lost their first meeting with the middle-easterners with a 2-5 scoreline), Schröck is looking forward to a much better output form the team.

“We’re looking to learn from our mistakes, and the next game will prove (just that).

“We’re looking to improve the result because it was a hard one for us to swallow that night (during the first meeting against Syria).

“We’re looking for redemption.”

Syria vs Philippines is scheduled to kickoff on Tuesday, November 19, at 10:00PM (Philippine Time). The Venue is at Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium.

Photo credit: Football Association of Maldives Facebook page

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PFF U15: NCR, NOFA off to perfect starts in 2019 National Championship

National Capital Region (NCR) FA registered a lopsided win in Group A action during the opening day of Philippine Football Federation (PFF) U15 Boys National Championship 2019 held last November 11 at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

NCR gave a stellar overall performance scoring in double-figures to post a one-sided 11-0 result in their opener against Federated FA of Masbate (FFAM), with Matthias Lozano scoring a hat-trick and Scott Mackenzi registering a brace as both led NCR in the goalscoring department.

Top scorer Matthias Lozano showed such high-level of form during his shift, providing more than enough damage already that he was substituted out just five minutes after the hour mark.

In the other match, Laguna romped to a 4-0 start to the championship with Louis Angelo Junio producing an inspired performance with two conversions to lead his team against Cordillera RFA.

The Southern Tagalogs got to a dream start with Junio getting the breakthrough in just the eighth minute. Roenz Bicua then doubled the lead seven minutes after the half-hour mark as Laguna ended the first half with a two-goal cushion.

In the second half, quick back-to-back goals from Vincent Saludo and Junio just a few moments past the hour mark, sealed the deal for Laguna FA as they secured a convincing result to begin their Championship campaign.

But come their second assignment that has just been recently concluded this November 13, Laguna suffered their first loss against Negros Occidental FA (NOFA), as they succumbed to a 0-2 defeat.

An early dagger inflicted by Mark Gabriel Cantos within the first minute of the match, followed by a late jugular from John Andrei Roldan in added time proved to be enough as the Western Visayans were able to get a perfect start to their campaign.

FFA Masbate meanwhile saw themselves still very much in the competition, getting a lifeline after they were able to crucially bounce back from the previous setback they suffered against NCR by dismantling Cordillera RFA with a 3-1 win on November 13.

Kervin Tacdoy seemed to have put his Northern Luzon-based squad in a very promising situation when he converted a chance in the 32nd minute, but a second-half fightback from the Masbateños proved to be enough as Carl James Zaragoza registered back-to-back goals in the 47th and 53rd minutes respectively, before Gian Francisco put any doubts to rest with an 85th minute icing on the cake.

The PFF National Championship will continue until November 19. The rest of the fixtures are below:

The National Championship is contested by the best teams which already progressed from the grinding Regional Group Stage that transpired from late June to late September this year.

Photo credit: Philippine Football Federation

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PFF president Araneta eyes nat’l Under-17 tournament in 2020

(Via wires)

With a big global brand expected to back the country’s professional football league in the next three years, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta vowed to come up with more programs that will benefit age-group players in the future.

Araneta said the impending sponsorship of Qatar Airways to the Philippines Football League will allow the PFF to allot funds for a national Under-17 tournament starting next year.

“We want to start the Under-17 tournament next year,” he said, noting that the PFF had also begun holding a national Under-15 tournament this year that is now in its final stages.

“We really have a lot of football activities coming in and I want to see that this is being implemented properly. We are not neglecting players in the age-group level. In fact, we have been revitalizing our grassroots program to find more homegrown talents in the country.”

On top of the national Under-17 tournament, Araneta said the PFF will also hold Under-16 and Under-18 regional tournament for girls as part of its thrust to develop women’s football. The PFF chief hopes these tournaments will lead to improved performances for the age-group teams in international tournaments.

Araneta is hopeful the entry of Qatar Airways will trigger more support from local companies to football.

“Qatar Airways is a global brand and hopefully we have local brands that will join the sponsorship,” said Araneta.

“There are still a lot of ways to improve the league. The sponsorship really allows the federation And aside from that, some money will go into the federation where in we can spend also the league for other programs.”

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Vision Beyond Borders: Football For Humanity’s grassroots program takes nationwide route

Football for Humanity Foundation continues to sustain its grassroots initiatives as they now embark on a route that include stops in key cities within the Visayas and Mindanao with their “Vision Beyond Borders” project.

The activity is a major undertaking that aims to share knowledge to Filipino football coaches at the grassroots and youth levels on the European approach, particularly the English method, in how football is taught to children.

This set of sessions is currently on-going and will happen in different key cities across the nation which began in Vermosa in Cavite that concluded last November 7, and is now taking an inter-island southward route until its final stop in Davao within a month’s time.

Giving importance to grassroots training

Football Humanity once again has just brought National Youth Football Association (NYFA) Sweden founder, Owen Southgate, for another series of training sessions (which is currently on-going as of this writing) for grassroots coaches.

A UEFA B licensed coach, Owen shares his expertise to his Filipino counterparts on the latest techniques when it comes to mentoring young footballer particularly focusing on the holistic approach that transcends not just on the pitch but also including the overall well-being of the players that very much translates to their performances on the pitch and their outlooks in life off it.

Speaking to 5th Minute of Added Time in an interview, Coach Owen shared the overall concept and approach of NYFA when it comes grassroots development of young players.

“The whole concept of NYFA is fundamentally developed to try and present young people the chance to take control of their own organization. 

When you see the word youth involved in any sport it’s ultimately the most important word. But it’s actually adults who take control of that scenario,” stated Southgate who is also an English FA Tutor.

Changing the coaching construct: All about the children

Owen Southgate further added that there needs to be a paradigm shift in terms of approach when it comes to coaching youngsters.

“Educating coaches like this, the emphasis is to try and focus coaches’ attention to the fact that coaches aren’t necessarily needed for quality action within the sport, children are brilliant at it already. They are born expert learners.”

The mentor further added that major problems that grassroots have is due to the creation of agenda-ed bubble, where children’s potential are limited because of the belief that the right way of learning is to follow the adult pathway – a pathway that is often driven by grown-ups’ own agenda and personal gain.

“It’s not our right as adults to take control of the scenario in which they can actually exploit children in that process. That’s why we (NYFA Sweden) exist, that’s why we persist, (and) that’s why Football for Humanity exists because it is for extending opportunities for people who actually have no opportunity at the moment, but can have if they actually take control of their circumstances,” Owen Southgate further emphasised. 

“…It’s just a question of trust (when it comes to coaching youngsters). We’re educating coaches to understand that that if you trust your children and let them play, all the outcomes are going to be there. As a coach you only need to see the details (in their development) in order to be able to add the layers or support the process as it goes, not to take control of it.”

A nationwide caravan

This month’s Vision Beyond Borders sessions for coaches is a continuation of the program previously held in Davao. This time though is a much bigger undertaking as Vermosa serves only as the first stop in a nationwide tour in major key cities.

Football for Humanity founder Chris Thomas shared the next stops of the grassroots coaches’ training which will be in San Carlos, Iligan, Marawi and again Davao. The whole set of activities will last for about a month.

As of this writing, the third day of training sessions in San Carlos have just concluded as thee team is now setting its sights for the next stop: Iligan.

“There are some places in between that we’ll be going to (which we cannot divulge as of yet),” Chris Thomas clarified.

A major boost in support

Due to the previous projects and initiatives of Football for Humanity that have come into fruition, despite starting with relatively modest resources, the organisation is already steadily getting the attention of potential partners and sponsors.

The latest development in this aspect is the possibility of a collaborative effort with the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines being in the pipeline.

This is just the newest possible addition to the already forged partnerships with several other entities such as Expo 2020 Dubai, Global Goals, One World Play, Library Renewal Partnership, and Waves for Water.

Tackling a bigger issue, armed with the beautiful game

Along with the on-going Vision Beyond Borders initiative, Football for Humanity has just furthered its thrust towards fighting violent extremism and juvenile delinquency, particularly in Marawi City which has recently been a conflict area in Mindanao.

Football for Humanity aims to use sports as a tool to counter violence and delinquency through sports, particularly football, as it continues to follow through in its past efforts in helping Marawi City, particularly the children, get back to its feet by instilling a sense of hope through football.

Back to grassroots football: It’s potential in the Philippines

Returning to the initial discussion on grassroots football, Coach Owen Southgate shared his thoughts when asked about its potential in the Philippines, to which he replied:

“There is a huge amount of potential within the Filipino platform. The reason being is at the moment it is relatively untouched by those masked agendas…

“If you look at the complexities of the western culture and football in particular, the Philippines doesn’t have that kind of infrastructure (yet). So, it actually gives the Filipino platform a chance to build it the right way.”

Owen Southgate also explained further tapping on what his experience is with regards to Filipino culture that could help boost the grassroots football.

“If you look at the cultural idiosyncrasies (of Filipinos), there’s a lot of love, passion and creativity. They are all associative to creating a phenomenal platform for sport, but it’s just piecing them altogether, allowing them not to be touched by anything that kind of taints it and allowing it to grow.

“Obviously basketball is very heavy here, but football is a fantastic sport to make (a great platform for grassroots) happen with all the interest from the outside in. Just make sure that all the resources, be it the funding or the support, go to the right places to make it grow.”

Passion of Filipinos: A powerful trait

Lastly, when asked about what impacted him the most on his visits to the Philippines, from his involvement with Football for Humanity, Coach Owen Southgate emphasised on a few things.

“The feeling, the love for the sport from all the people I’m working with. You could tell in this room at the moment, every single coach has a passion and an identity towards the game that’s way more and beyond the game itself. That’s the most powerful thing that I can draw from the time that I am over here.

“Just like in Davao (a few months ago) when I was with those guys, they’re completely desperate for knowledge and desperate for an opportunity to exercise their vision and views of sport and what it meant to them.

“That’s an incredible thing for an educator to take on because that makes my life easy. It makes my life easy (when I) walk into the room and that the people are ready (to learn).”

Photo credit: Football for Humanity Facebook page

Visit Football for Humanity Foundation‘s official website for more info.