It’s football weekend!!!
This is the first of a 2 part series (wow, I’m doing a series!) of football-related blog entries.
Saturday, 23 July 2011, Fully Booked @ Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City
The wife and I indulged in a little culture. We went to watch an indie film by Director Jim Libiran entitled “Happyland“. This is the second outing of Direk Jim, after getting several awards including Best Film and Best Actor in the 2007 Cinemalaya Film Festival for the movie “Tribu“. Both films focused on life in Tondo, and non-actors played all the major roles. Direk Jim wanted the movies to be as real as possible, saying no one would have believed Piolo Pascual to be someone from Tondo.
Happyland tells the story of a Spanish priest who gathers boys from Tondo and forms a football team. Apparently, this is based on a true story and happened sometime in the 1980’s with the team gaining legendary status for playing barefoot since they didn’t have the means to buy football shoes. That being the case, the film hopes to break the stigma that football is a rich man’s game. The missionary priest (didn’t get his name, let’s just call him Father) was assisted by Brother Pete (Brod Pete for short. Get it “Brad” Pete? hehe..) who in real life is Peter Amores, founder of an NGO that teaches football, or futkal (football sa kalye, as opposed to futsal or football de sala as our more football-advanced counterparts call it), to poor communities all over the Philippines. The organization aims to build self-confidence and discipline through football for the kids to apply to all aspects of their lives.
It was amazing watching the film and somehow relating to the story’s characters. Although I didn’t grow up in the slums, we had so many things in common. As the film was trying to portray, it is difficult to get football through to the Filipinos. We are so entrenched in basketball that almost everywhere you go, you’ll see backboards and rims hanging from posts with markings such as “Donated By: SK Chairman Mauricio Batumbakal” or something to that effect. What people don’t see is that we are more likely to succeed internationally in football than basketball. Physically, the Koreans and Japanese are pretty much in our range. They have achieved some level of success in the international football scene. So why can’t we do the same? Football is a sport commonly taught and played in rich schools, so they say. Although I wouldn’t consider my family rich, I had the benefit of going to a private school my whole life, where it still is difficult to get people to understand and embrace football. I remember my Economics teacher in college, who also happened to be our coach then, had to give out points to those in his class for attending our football games. He even got his wife, also a teacher, to get her students to also attend the games in exchange for points. It wasn’t just getting people to watch the game that was difficult. Even buying the equipment was so difficult, we needed help from family and friends in Manila, or abroad to get us our football shoes! (IKR?)
After watching the film though, all the difficulties I encountered was nothing compared to the Tondo Futkaleros. These guys had to work as kids to help support their families, driving pedicabs, making firewood, hustling. I’d have to say, I had it easy compared to these guys. Compared to the rising stardom of the Azkals, I put these guys on the top of my list. Even through the difficult lives they had in the slums, these guys played with passion, a true love for the game. True, they see football as something that will help them improve their lives by getting into colleges and making something of themselves. But beyond the obvious, football has changed the way these guys see themselves. Football has helped them more than just getting an education and increasing the probability of them getting jobs after. Football made them realize that that they are not nothing, not basura as they have been treated their whole lives. They have seen what they can become, and that it is up to them to be the person that they can be, the person they want to be. Football made them winners.
In the words of the Spanish priest in the movie, “You are the gold”. More than any trophies, each one of us is gold. It was very inspiring as Father was doing his pep talk for the team before the final game with the team’s loved ones coming to support them even if they didn’t do so from the start. I remember my parents only went to watch me play once. But it was all that mattered. Even though they didn’t watch me play much, they supported me throughout my footballing “career”. And for that, I love them.