‘Humans of Payatas’ Gives a Glimpse of the Inspiration and Strength of Those in the Slums

Imagine witnessing the death of hundreds of people at once. As a child. This is traumatic enough. But what follows relives the same trauma in different ways. Day after day you struggle to break the glass ceiling; to even get to school, let alone do well in school. And when you do manage to get there you’re hungry, tired, and sleepy. It’s hard-work trying to stay awake and avoid your hunger pangs, let alone study.

Eventually you can’t keep up, grades slip, and it’s just not worth it anymore. You have to work as a child to help find money to feed you and your siblings. You’re stuck in a dead end job from 7 years old. And instead of learning about all the possibilities the world has to offer, you learn how you’re stuck with the life you were born in.

People Learn Helplessness

What stops you here? Not your own effort. Not your own hard-work. At some stage most people realise that there’s nothing they can do about their situation and you learn to stop trying. Because every time you try, and I mean every time, you cannot succeed. I don’t mean you didn’t try enough to succeed, I mean you physically and mentally can not.

Research shows two things are impossible for the brain to move beyond: chronic sound and chronic pain. No mindset, no motivational speeches, and no support can break the negative cycle of this. You have to live with it and it permanently reduces your life potentials. Living in poverty combines both of those. You’re hungry and can’t focus, tired because you couldn’t sleep much the night before – the tiny houses cramped together mean you hear after movement the neighbours and their neighbours and their neighbours make. You’re just getting over the latest round of flu that spread through those tiny shacks like wildfire. It creates a cycle known as learned helplessnessI wrote about that for Fairplay before here.

Every single one of us, if we were born in the same situation, would have grown up the same. We would have learned the same. We would act the same.

This is the image of the slums we all know. Desperation, heartbreak, pity. We may not have understood why poor parents have so many kids or why some people have just given up but we all have some impression like this of those living below the poverty line.

Hello From The Other Side

But there’s a side so many of us don’t really see. Having lived in Payatas for 6 years now, one of the largest and poorest slums in the Philippines, I am privileged to see this every day.

I am entirely driven by a need to understand more of what’s around me. To learn and to understand why something is the way it is or why someone is the way they are. Too often we don’t do the simplest of things when trying to understand someone else. Listen.

This is true in academia too. I recently read a review of related literature on the Psychology of Poverty. It was well written and interesting, but only two or three of the 40 or so studies had actually interviewed and studied poor people. The rest were simulations in a lab.

You miss so much by ignoring the poor. We all see the stories of desperation. We all see the pictures of a decimated  child wasting in the arms of their mother as a charity asks for $2 a month to feed them. But so rarely do we hear anything from the people in the photographs. And when you don’t reach out to people on a genuine level, i.e. listen to them, you miss so much of their strength, their humour, their resilience, their creativity, their inspiration.

We all know the bad, but less of us have seen the good. And that’s why we started Humans of Payatas.  To share these stories. How people find their meaning and their dreams, how people work hard for their families, how people fall in love.

People here in Payatas don’t want someone to swoop in and make their dreams come true. They just want a path so that when they work hard every day, struggle and strive to improve themselves, they aren’t continually blocked by other things, they aren’t continually told there isn’t enough money, enough time, enough people.

People here don’t want handouts. They want justice. They want opportunities. They want what we all deserve.

And our first step to helping them is to listen. It’s to recognise they have something important to say and that we can learn so much from them.


If you want to help level the playing field then check out http://www.fairplayforall.org and see how you can get involved. 


Faces of Payatas: Meet Althea (& Why Some of the Best Talents Will Always Come From the Poorest Places)

Lovely story

Fairplay for All Foundation

DSC_1048.JPG Althea (2nd from left) wearing her sister’s National Team jersey, with teammates from Payatas FC U14 girls last year during the Fairplay Pinay Cup.

Everyone loves Rocky. Everyone loves the Karate Kid and the Mighty Ducks. In short, everyone loves an underdog. They’re all feel good stories of a person or team starting from the bottom and struggling against all odds to rise to the top. The triumphant underdog is perhaps the most glorious of all stories.

In Payatas we work with underdogs every day. People who were dealt a bad lot in life and struggle hard even for the most basic of things. Food. A home. Security. People who start from the absolute bottom and are struggling to rise up just one rung on the ladder.

Now we can celebrate another underdog story in the making as Althea, one of our players from Payatas Football Club, has been selected as part of…

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The Philippines’ Suzuki Cup Postmortem Part 2: Reviving Philippine Football

Futsal Court in Use.JPG
A focus on grassroots development is the only way to break the ceiling

In Part One I talked about the postmortem of the Philippines’ exit in the Suzuki Cup and how Philippine Football hit a ceiling years ago. Yes, playing Phil Younghusband in midfield left the Azkals without much bite up top. Yes, individual mistakes played a part. And yes, the marketing campaign was as absent as Manny Pacquiao. But it is impossible to break the ceiling without building a football infrastructure to feed the National Team. This is the real problem at hand…

The Diagnosis

Every postmortem is about reaching a diagnosis. Honest, genuine feedback drives success in every aspect of life, from business to school to NGO work. So let us honestly ask, is this a squad you would expect to win the Suzuki Cup?

Yes there were some odd decisions, but Coaches and Managers can only work with the pool of players they have. Focusing on those will blind us from the real fixes the entire football system needs. Players work very hard, some are among the best in ASEAN in their

The current shape of Philippine Football

position. But there is no depth. We’re supposed to have a grassroots pyramid, but right now it looks more like Nelson’s column. There have been fantastic improvements but we do not have a domestic game that supports the Azkals. So how do we get there?

Same Problems Year-In, Year-Out

The first thing is to acknowledge and fix the simple things. Every single year we complain about the same things. As writers we complain of 24 hours’ notice for press conferences. As players we complain about the lack of regular leagues at all levels. As coaches we complain National Youth Team Tryouts are scheduled just a few days in advance, then changed at the last minute, or held during school hours at a particular school. Everyone from National Youth Team Coaches to to the Community Coaches are trying so hard. They’re just being messed around.

If there were progress on these fronts, we wouldn’t complain so much. If the communication, organisation, and strategy improved, one result wouldn’t matter. We could be excited for the future because we would see a growing pool of quality players. But we don’t see that. Instead we see 17 losses out of 18 youth games in 2015, and similar results in 2016. And most importantly, we see no obvious successor to any of the ageing National Team players right now.

The exception that proves the rule is the U14 and U16 girls. They are are possibly the only Philippine Youth Teams with a positive record but a large contingent come from the USA and elsewhere (at the parents’ expense). That’s not to reopen the stupid half-half debate, it’s just to say Philippine grassroots cannot take credit for them. They are good players and deserve their spot, but we didn’t develop them.

Most Kids Can’t Play Right Now

Sure, more kids are playing football now compared to 6 years ago. We have thousands of children playing. But our competitors in Southeast Asia have millions. And that’s the difference; it’s simply too hard to play football here. If a 6 year old wants to play how would they do it? Beginners will join a team and if you’re not in a private school shelling out on tuition fees you have to join a UFL Academy or similar set-up paying roughly P500 per session. Many UFL Academies open slots for kids from poorer backgrounds – but only if they’re already developed into a good player elsewhere of course.

The Philippines is stuck in a short-term mindset. We push the Azkals to win every game (including friendlies) because we hope it will generate fans and sponsors. We push Youth Teams to win trophies because we hope it attracts other kids to join our ‘successful’ team and pay for trainings. And even many community coaches push their kids to win and disrespect anyone who gets in the way, because that’s all they’ve been taught.

And that speaks to the larger problem: the Philippine grassroots system is built on winning at all costs. And in the long-run we lose…

‘Festival Syndrome’

In general the entire youth season is built one festival to the next. As the PFF’s respected U16 boys Coach, Marlon Maro, said during tryouts: that players lack basic football skills and show bad attitudes “…is probably the result of the ‘Festival Syndrome’”. The kids learn winning is all that matters. If you lose, you’re out. Go to any youth tournament and coaches (and parents) are screaming at tiny children. Look around the next one you’re at and ask, ‘are these children being valued as human beings before they’re valued as players?’ Here’s a great open letter from kids to over-bearing parents on that.

The result of this mentality? DEPED’s Palaro finals break out into brawls. Coaches are usually at fault for starting the fights too. Teams regularly field overage players and cheat in other ways (we all know who). And the kids get left behind. The playing pool shrivels into a puddle as kids drop out in droves because it’s not fun anymore. The young players are forced to play overage kids and get discouraged, and the over-aged kids’ development stalls too because playing younger kids all the time.

Festivals are good to showcase talent, but they don’t develop it. Leagues develop talent. Right now the largest running youth league in the country is run by a charity. It’s a really nice league and is great for development… but isn’t it sad charities have to fill these gaping chasms? The UFL Youth League was a good start, and the UFL overall was a great development in the domestic game. But the Youth League cost P20,000 to join and lost millions of pesos overall. That was before the PFF tried to put lipstick on a pig by decreeing only UFL Clubs could join, meaning less kids playing.

Talent Development: Talent is Created in the Local Community

So we have the diagnosis, what’s the treatment?

The key is a long-term mindset. A vision and a strategy. When facing a grassroots crisis, even the most developed football nations don’t restructure for the next two to four years. They focus on 6-8 year olds. I previously wrote how Germany’s 2014 World Cup win was 14 years in the making for example .

Because if players aren’t developing fundamental skills at this age there’s not much chance. Not physical skills, and certainly not results. None of that matters. Fundamental skills in terms of ball control and technique. Paul Scholes is the go-to example of this. An undersized asthmatic child, when Alex Ferguson first saw him play he said: “He’s got no chance – he’s a midget”. The rest is history.

So how do we get players with elite ball control, technique, and vision?  Space to play. The late Johan Cruyff once said: “I trained 3-4 hours a week at Ajax when I was little but played 3-4 hours every day on the street. So where do you think I learnt football?” The best players in history typically learned from the streets; a small court or field to rack up their 10,000 hours of deep practice. A bit of guidance from quality coaches will help. But without the regular time playing as kids, it cannot be done.

In most barangays, however, no matter how engaged, interested, or excited a child is, there is absolutely nowhere to play. There is a single basketball court nearby but it’s dominated by older basketballers and there’s no safe space around the corner for kids to go. We’re missing Step 1 and so we trip ourselves up trying to hurdle it.

My favourite example of how little you need is Wallsend Boys Club, a five aside community team in the North East of England. As I wrote here this indoor 5 aside pitch produced England internationals Michael Carrick, Alan Thompson, Peter Beardsley, Fraser Forster, and Premier League all-time top scorer Alan Shearer, plus other Pros.

Most people associate Carrick with West Ham, and Alan Shearer and Fraser Forster with Southampton. But they didn’t join those Academies until they were at least 15 years old. They developed as elite players for their age with their community teams. So we cannot expect the National League to solve our grassroots problem. Teams like Global, Kaya, Loyola, and Ceres will scout the communities and invite the best players to join them. They will develop them, for sure, but they will not create the talents.

So this is the first step: talent is created in the local community.

A Crazy Idea

So here’s a crazy idea: forget about winning the 2018 Suzuki Cup. Forget the idea that the Azkals winning something will revive Philippine football. If the Philippines had won the Suzuki Cup this year almost all of those inspired kids would still have nowhere to play.

Instead here is my unsolicited advice if we truly want to break the ceiling of Philippine Football:

  1. A vision and a strategy for the youth beyond one-day festivals. Forget about winning (many successful grassroots programs do not record results for U8 and U10 games). Focus instead on ball control, coachability, and fun.
  2. Form cheap, affordable youth leagues such as the Metro Manila Futsal League and Liga GK using basketball courts in every region. These leagues also have special rules to promote development over winning. Youth competition doesn’t have to be on a field, it just has to be regular and fun.
  3. Build safe spaces to play in poor communities. One futsal court with 100 children playing regularly racks up more playing time than the one-day festival calendar. And in exchange they can host and run the leagues.

When communities have safe spaces to play, kids flock there. Young kids care more about actually playing than about watching others, even the Azkals. And when coaches focus on fundamentals and attitude more than winning, the talent is created.

Once that happens, we can talk about the Azkals one day winning the Suzuki Cup. We can talk about building a market for the National League. And we can talk about building a football culture.

But not before.

Roy Moore is a Armchair Analyst Freelance Journalist. He is available for consultation at a hefty fee. 


PHILIPPINES 0-1 THAILAND. What does it mean for Philippine football? Part 1: The Postmortem



It was supposed to be a dream. Now it’s more like a nightmare for Philippine football. The Philippines failed to qualify for the Semi Finals of the Suzuki Cup for the first time since 2008 despite hosting the Group. With pitiful attendances there’s a lot to think about, with it now unlikely we’ll be hosting another Suzuki Cup Group for a long time.

So, as I wrote in a four part series on GMA nearly two years ago, the Azkals have hit a ceiling and grassroots are the only way to break it.

We’ve Been Spoiled

For the last three editions of the Suzuki Cup, Azkals fans have arguably been spoiled. The miracle in Hanoi, 2010, was both unexpected and deserved. A mess of an administration at the time stole the home game. The Philippines repeated the success in 2012 against a weakened Vietnam but Singapore edged a dull Semi Final. And in 2014 strong wins over Laos and an Indonesian team in disarray (FIFA banned them soon after) allowed comfortable qualification. Humbled by Vietnam in the last group game and by Thailand in the Semis, the Azkals saw the ceiling. This is the level the team have been at for around 4 years now. The players, the coaches, the management have all done wonders to get this far in such a short amount of time. But we cannot get better with what we’re doing right now. This is as good as it gets.


After losing to Thailand again, Coach Thomas Dooley gave this sound assessment: “We couldn’t score… that was bad.” To be fair, I actually think Dooley has done a very good job overall and he was right to commend the effort of the players. They pressed high and forced Thailand’s hand. But for a couple of great saves and a bit more luck, the Azkals could have nicked it. They really gave it a go.

In hindsight, it seems easy to say why the Philippines fell at this hurdle. With the Azkals’ top scorer played as a holding midfielder, and without a natural striker to replace him, the Philippines scored just two goals in three games, both from free-kicks. Juani, Gier, Lucena and others retired after the 2014 edition leaving only one natural defender in the back four for the first two games and as many as six of the starting eleven out of position overall. There were no ready, tested replacements waiting in the wings.

Now Marco Casambre, making his debut at 17 years old, did exceptionally well. I’d buy him a beer if he weren’t underage it’s that ridiculous how young this kid is. But for all the positives of his performance, that he was thrown into a do or die game against the best team in Southeast Asia for his international debut speaks to the utter lack of depth in the squad.

But it’s also not quite that simple. If Indonesia hadn’t scored a late winner against Singapore, the Philippines would have gone through. If the Azkals had nicked a late goal against Singapore themselves, they would have gone through. With just a bit more luck in any of those games, the Azkals would have gone through. There are plenty of ifs, buts, and maybes.

A Puddle Not a Pool

But we have to accept that this is the Azkals’ level. The management, Palami et al, have done wonders to raise the bar of the team to this level in such a short amount of time, but this is as far as the team can go without broader support.

Before the Suzuki Cup started, more than a few Philippine football writers and coaches were saying getting to the Semis again would be tough. These guys (and girls) support their country, support the team, they know how hard the Azkals management and players work… and they also know the limitations of Philippine football. For all the positives we know this for sure: the Azkals don’t have so much of a pool of players as a tiny puddle. The Azkals aren’t meant to be a team feeding the rest of the pyramid. They’re meant to be fed by the pyramid, supported by a competent structure of domestic football at youth and senior level. There’s no way to progress otherwise.

After the game Dooley said “It’s disappointing and we have to move on.” He’s right, but we need to talk about what the team moves on to. These players go back to a National League with nothing nailed down just 4 months before kick off. In an interview two years ago the PFF said they were pinning their grassroots hopes on the National League so serious grassroots efforts have been delayed. So many people in the Philippine game are saying it… and now some random white guy with a blog is saying it again.

The result is that the typical kid in the typical barangay still can’t play football (more in Part 2).

The Grassroots Aren’t Growing

Against most teams in Southeast Asia, the Azkals hold their own. But after six years there have been enough birthing pains, enough growing pains, and enough excuses. Every football expert sent by FIFA, every Head Coach of the National Team, and every grassroots coordinator/adviser has said the same thing. Every time the response is: ‘Thank you for your contribution’ and nothing changes. Everyone complains about the same things year after year. Whether they’re a tiny club in the middle of a slum or part of AFC and FIFA. So many people, from National Youth Team Coaches to grassroots and community coaches, are working incredibly hard… but they’re being let down.

And this is why there’s no market for the National League yet. National Leagues worked in the USA, Japan, and Australia because they were bottom up. There were hundreds of thousands of kids playing before a League took off. If you sell a ticket to a kid, you sell tickets to theit parents too. Right now, if 2,000 to 5,000 people show up for the Azkals, just a few hundred at UFL games, how many more do we expect to watch the same players? Not enough to justify professional contracts in a 10-game season, that’s for sure.

If we had invested in a grassroots structure beyond one day festivals (see Part 2) we would be seeing the results. We would see new people watching games because they play. We would see higher turnouts for UFL matches. We may not see different results with the Azkals yet, but we would certainly see better results with National Youth teams. Last year Bob Guerrero pointed out that the Philippine Youth Teams played 18 games and lost 17. I am very much interested to see what the record is in 2016.

We need to take the long-term approach or we move from one crisis to another. The defence rests on 21 year old Amani’s shoulders. And do we have any idea who could replace Phil Younghusband or Misagh (29 years old) or James and Schrock (30)? The Azkals management has gotten us this far… but they’re not supposed to have to plug all the gaps. That’s the job of Philippine football as a whole.

And that’s both the bad news and the good news. We have serious issues. Everybody knows it. But with targeted development, a vision and strategy, it is possible to revive Philippine football to an even better place. To develop a genuine football pyramid and break that ceiling.

And that will be Part 2: Reviving Philippine Football


It’s Not the End of the World: Why Politics is So Toxic, and How We Can Make an Antidote. Part I.


Brexit, Trump, Duterte (for Philippine readers) and many other examples around the world are showing one thing. It’s not that people are uneducated or stupid or don’t deserve democracy. It’s that people are angry.

Prejudice Wasn’t the Biggest Factor in Hillary Losing

Now Hilary Clinton just lost an election against a totally inexperienced opponent, who was endorsed by the KKK. It should have been an easy win. Yet from the outset, Trump’s unlikely rise to the Presidency of the (Not so) United States has been a mix of luck, freebies, and the strategic poisoning of political discourse.

The groundwork for such an extreme figure was laid after years of vile rhetoric (see Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, Huckabee, Gingrich, et al). Then Trump defeated Lyin’ Ted in a Primary Race Jeb Bush would have walked if he had any charisma. But Trump’s rise was first championed by the media for the theatre, and then for the economics. As media groups saw their advertising profits soar when covering Trump, they followed the money at the expense of genuine journalism. This gave Trump more than $5 billion worth of free coverage, a sum greater than the GDP of over 50 countries. This is covered well in Cracked here.

And into the main event of the Pay Per View, Hillary was leading for the most part. Yet we’re now all in shock, wondering what happens next?

Against this Particular Woman…

Now, the easy route is to call Trump supporters bigots and the like. They must be at least willing to put up with such blatant prejudice if they voted for the racist tangerine, right? Imagine facing soul-crushing discrimination throughout your life, fighting for Hillary to be the first female President in history and not just losing to a man, but losing to a misogynist with a litany of sexual harassment claims against him. It must hurt. It must be so frustrating.

But the first thing we need to understand is Hillary didn’t lose because of the bigots. They were always going to vote Republican. All Hillary had to do was keep the people who voted for an unheard of black guy last time out. Instead, some of the States that were major losses for Hillary were big wins for Obama four/eight years ago. As  Tami Luhby writes for CNN, “While [Hillary] won the key demographic groups her campaign targeted, she under-performed President Obama across the board, even among women”.

It wasn’t the racists, the sexist, or the bigots that caused Hillary to lose (they certainly didn’t help). No, Hillary herself is one of the most unpopular Presidential Candidates of all time (along with Trump) and her loss to Obama should have offered lessons as to why. Much of the furore of Bernie Sanders’ supporters refusing to vote for Hillary, for example, wasn’t about gender. These were liberal, progressive Democrats (and further left) fighting for equality on a number of measures. Bernie was an outsider promising big reform. Hillary is part of the system, entrenched in the very inequality and injustice they were fighting against.

So some silver lining on this toxic cloud is that, in general, the US electorate did not vote against women, the US voted against this particular woman. It’s a small silver lining, I grant you that.

Hillary Represents Exactly Why People are so Angry

Hillary is part of the system that helped the top 1% get 95% of all new income gains. She voted for that. So it was somewhat cringe-worthy when she took Bernie’s rhetoric about fighting for equality and cited this statistic (now slightly outdated) in her campaign. She was part of the system that caused the mortgage house collapse and had thousands of families kicked out on the streets. She is part of the reason why people on Wall Street pay lower taxes. She voted for that. And while the general economy has improved, many of those families are still desperately struggling. This Guardian article is a great piece to look at how neoliberalism has caused the gross inequality dividing us. Clinton is very much part of the face of neoliberal economics.

Now a more nuanced and detailed analysis will show this isn’t the full story. Clinton sometimes voted against Wall Street and proposed other bills which didn’t catch on. But few people are going to finish this blog, let alone a detailed analysis into Clinton’s voting record. What we do know is she took home $1.8 million from speaking to 8 big banks. So to truly understand how difficult it was for some people, there’s a really, really good piece I really, really recommend you reading here. If you read nothing else, including the rest of this article, really, really read this to truly empathise with how others felt.

So you may be legitimately angry that Clinton lost to the annoying orange personified. But they are legitimately angry for bearing the brunt of levels of inequality not seen since the Great Depression. They are legitimately angry for seeing their towns and cities ripped apart, and being expected to vote for the same corporate politicians who allowed this mess.

Hillary is Terrible at Campaigning

Finally, Hillary is a terrible campaigner. Even Demcorats acknowledge this. Last time Hillary ran for President, she lost to an unknown black guy. This time she almost lost to Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist who only registered as a Democrat to run in the election. Hillary had the entire Democratic party behind her so much that the Democratic Party Leader had to resign because Democrats were trying to rig the game in favour of Hillary. And it was still pretty close. That’s how much even Democrat voters didn’t really want to vote for Hillary.

And once up against Trump, her campaign was largely about how horrible Donald Trump is rather than the issues people are so legitimately angry about. She fell right into the trap of making it ‘us’ and ‘them’ with comments like calling half of Trump supporters a ‘basket of deplorables’. She failed to unite people behind a positive message.

Having said all that, Hillary is CLEARLY still far better than Trump. If I was an American, I would have voted for her. But we have to understand why people disliked Hillary (and politics in general) to fight back. We have to understand what the root cause of these issues are. So we don’t continue to make enemies, but rather bring them over to our side. People are very angry for very legitimate reasons and no-one is empathising with them or building constructive alternatives.

And that’s why the comparisons between Brexit, Duterte, and the politics in other countries make sense. This feeling goes beyond the US election. Practically every country in the world has their example of Trump. Whether it’s Brexit, or here in the Philippines Duterte, people’s legitimate frustrations have boiled over and they are voting for an outsider to ruin the establishment.

Why Do Angry People Do Silly Things?

The Dictator experiment I think explains the reason why we’re in this mess quite well. In the experiment, two people usually participate. The actual sums vary, but for the sake of argument one person is given $10. They are then to make an offer to the second person from that $10. It could be share $5 each, keep all $10 for yourself, or any combination. The catch is that if the second person accepts that offer, they keep the money. If the second person rejects the offer, however, both get nothing.

Traditional economics will say a rational person would accept any offer because $1 is better than nothing. Yet typically any offer below $2 was rejected. People literally threw money away because they felt it was unfair. They felt it better to spite the other person than to receive an unfair deal. Rationality means more than self-interest, it also means fairness. Check out Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on this (among other great books).

If you look at the world we’ve basically gone past this threshold. The top 1% get roughly 90% of all new gains (depending on where you are) while most people’s wages are stagnating or declining in real terms. To simplify too much, 99% of people are being offered $1 while the person across them keeps $9 out of $10, and then lauds it over them. They’re then expected to survive on $1 while everything around them gets more and more expensive and the richer group cheer about how the economy is booming. And after years of growing inequality, people have had enough. They’re rejecting the deal and saying ‘screw it, let’s burn the whole thing down’.

So What Happens Now?

It’s going to be a very difficult few years for a lot of people and this is not a good situation for many throughout the world. People are legitimately worried about what comes next. But that next step isn’t to go and find someone else to blame to label and demonise a whole other group and reduce them to a single word. That’s the process that led to Trump in the first place. The next step is to figure out how we get out of this mess…

We need to acknowledge our current political system is woefully equipped for the modern world, and build a constructive outlet for the justified anger so many of us, from every single side, are feeling.

More in Part II.


What I Learned Living in a Filipino Slum for Six Years: Our Toxic Relationship With Drugs

einstein*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

James* is two years old. Or three. No-one’s quite sure. Like many kids in the area he doesn’t know how old he is. While most of us will celebrate our birthdays every year as a milestone, a way to look back at the year and make plans for the next, James doesn’t know what a birthday is. Many kids here don’t.

James is scrawny and stunted. He’s about the same height as a typical one year old. Most of the time, though, he’s running around the streets by himself. He emerges from a tiny shack made of wood, no bigger than the smallest room of a ‘normal’ house, where his entire family sleep. He wears a t-shirt that’s too big for him, nothing else. And that’s if he’s wearing anything at all. He’s often just completely naked and dirty and wandering around.

His slightly rounded cheeks betray a stick-thin figure, the result of chronic malnourishment. His physical condition pales in comparison to the mental malnourishment that comes from this combination of poor nutrition, poor hygiene, and constant negative attention creating an awful environment for James… and others. He learns every day that the only way to get attention – something every child desperately needs and craves – is to break something, to hurt someone, to do something wrong. He learns from day one, that bad is good.

No-one around him thinks this is unusual. They know that his parents have to work, scavenging through piles of someone else’s trash so that they can eat a meal that day. A meal of rice with fish sauce, soy sauce, or if they’re lucky a piece of meat they found int he trash discarded by someone at a restaurant or out of date from the supermarket. Everyone knows why James is dirty, naked, and wandering around the street by himself. They know why the other kids are too.

So what do we do about a problem like James? What happens to him and the thousands of kids like him? There are answers… it just takes a lot of learning to get there.

Lesson One: Understanding the Environment of Poverty, it’s as Toxic as the Trash

One study about Payatas, the home of the largest dumpsite in the Philippines and what Payatas is mostly known for, measured the human development index in the area (Regalario, 2002). The human development index is a rough measure of overall development, it includes life expectancy, education, and income per capita. With a score of 0.4179, if Payatas was a country it would rank 180 out of 189 in the world. It is one of the largest and poorest slums in the Philippines and you can expect that many slums here have similar conditions. Meanwhile the Philippines nationally scored 0.74 back then. It is now ranked 115th in the world, an average score labelled as ‘medium development’.

A child born just a few kilometres away from a Filipino slum will be in the Middle Class of the world. They will have enough food, enough shelter, enough education… not great, but they will have enough. Their worries will be about what their friends think are cool – not if they will eat that day. Their childhood will be spent with toys, games, and trips – not spent by the time they’re 4 years old. Their time will be spent doing things which collects trash to be thrown away – not spent scavenging through that trash to find something to sell, recycle, or even eat.

And yet just because of the environment James was born in, that’s what awaits him.

this is where your trash goes 2.1.pngLiving in poverty is stressful. If you haven’t truly lived through poverty you cannot understand how that feels. That includes me. One study found that the stress of living in poverty is the equivalent of losing 13 IQ points. For a better measure that’s the difference between you as a normal person and you if you became a chronic alcoholic, or if you went all night without sleeping. The feeling of having pulled an all-nighter is something we can relate to. So imagine living every day feeling like that. Remember the last time you pulled an all-nighter. Remember the feeling of being overwhelmingly tired but needing to finish something – whether it was for school, for work, or anything else. Remember how easily you were annoyed, frustrated, or just wanted to give up. Remember how difficult it was to think straight and how easily you snapped. Remember the food you craved and ate. And now imagine that this is how you feel for the rest of your life. Double your workload, go through the day as if you haven’t slept, and do it all while being looked down on and insulted by the rest of society, and you have a small glimpse of what living in poverty is like.

In positive psychology (check out one of my favourite TED talks by Shawn Achor for an intro to the Happiness Advantage), the Losada Line shows that for any positive environment to grow there must be 3 positive experiences for every 1 negative experience. Minimum. Anything below this line becomes a toxic environment; whether in business, school, or the home. Among other things, and based on other factors of course, it isn’t a supportive environment any more and a negative mindset takes root. So here’s the crucial point: if you were in their situation you would almost certainly make the same decisions. It’s not their place in the world, it’s not their station in life, it’s what they are like when forced to live in this environment. It’s toxic. And like anything toxic it doesn’t discriminate. Whoever is there will be affected by the toxic environment, anyone breathing the toxic air is affected. Right now, that’s James.

What will happen to James? It’s a fairly simple question to answer as for the vast majority of people born in this situation he will most likely follow in his parents’ footsteps: becoming addicted to drugs, burnout, and if he lives to mature adulthood restart the cycle with his own kids.

Lesson Two: What Determines Who Becomes an Addict and Who Doesn’t Isn’t About Drugs, it’s About Their Environment

People take drugs for many different reasons. Most drug users, however, are casual users, whether that’s alcohol, cigarettes, or ‘harder’ drugs. What separates those who can handle their drink or the casual smoker to the alcoholic or chain smoker is often why they drink or smoke. Street kids often sniff glue, for example, because it dulls hunger pangs and other senses for a time, allowing them to escape their reality. A big part of addiction is how addicts feel they need the drug, and that need usually comes from a need to escape their environment, whether that’s hunger, loneliness, or a lack of purpose.

rat park.jpgAnother study sums this up rather well. Rats were placed in Skinner Boxes to study their reaction to drugs (left). Rats could press a lever to have the drug under study injected into their system. They did this so often most of the rats overdosed and died. It was hailed as conclusive evidence of the addictive nature and dangers of drugs.

Soon after, though, it became clear that wasn’t the whole picture. Other researchers figured that a lonely, tiny cage where you could barely move was not a particularly nice environment. The researchers instead made a better environment, Rat Park, where rats could run around, eat well, and interact with other rats. There they found the rats didn’t take to drugs. And when they placed the previously addicted rates in rat park, they showed withdrawal symptoms and gradually weaned themselves off.

Sound a bit ridiculous? That’s for rats, right? People are very different. But there is a kind of natural experiment for this too. During the Vietnam War nearly 20% of US soldiers in Vietnam became heroin addicts. It’s not difficult to figure out why people under the stress of war would resort to drugs to escape.

So the USA was naturally worried about what would happen when literally thousands of heroin addicts returned to the USA? For the most part, though, nothing happened. 95% of those addicted in Vietnam effectively stopped taking heroin overnight. Again because the drug isn’t the problem, the environment is. When the environment changed, when their stress and the cause of their fear, anxiety, and most of their problems disappeared, so did their need for heroin. You can read more about that here.

Most of all I would recommend this great TED talk about the whole issue. It sculpts together the problem with how we think about drugs and addiction, how the ‘War on Drugs’ has only made things worse in the long-run.

Here Johann Hari shares the example of Portugal. Being ‘tough on drugs’ led to a situation where year after year politicians got tougher and tougher, meted out harsher sentences and punishments, and yet the problem only got bigger – until 1% of the entire population became addicts. Portugal took a radical shift in policy and legalised drugs, shifting the huge amounts of money spent on policing and imprisoning drug offenders to development, rehabilitation, and support mechanisms.

drug deaths.jpgThe rate of overdoses, violent crime, and HIV rates dropped very quickly and the country saved a lot of money because of it. The USA has similar findings after the legalisation of marijuana: better health outcomes and fiscal savings. But a key point to the solution of Portugal’s drug problem wasn’t just about decriminalisation. It also included a guaranteed minimum wage and other measures which improved the quality of life. They had to improve the human development index of those areas.

Addiction is a symptom of a desperate and basic need in the lives of addicts that has not been fulfilled. That could be human connection, food, meaning, or other physical or mental needs. Fighting the symptom alone will never solve the issue. Tackling the issue of drugs means understanding the cause of addiction, and the need that hasn’t been fulfilled and tackling that. Only by doing this can we hope to solve the issue of drugs, and related social problems.

For more on the example of Portugal (and others) who decreased the need for drugs and therefore the addiction, deaths, and other social problems associated with drugs read here.

No Man is an Island…

If 95% of US soldiers addicted to heroin stopped using practically overnight when they returned to the USA, we have to endeavour not to put each addict through the emotional turmoil of what feels like war to them, but rather to improve their environments around them so they no longer feel as if they are in one. We cannot blame and punish the addict as much of our current system does, things will predictably get worse this way. Solving the problem of drugs in our society doesn’t mean fighting the drug itself, it means fighting the social problems we have made that leads to addiction; the stresses, the hunger, the lack of basic needs which leads to drug use. It means understanding and fighting the cause, not covering it up by locking up the symptom.

The good news is that it’s possible to solve these problems with compassion and understanding; that it’s more effective, and even cheaper! Throwing a person in jail year after year is far more expensive than solving the social problems in communities that lead to drug use. Not just because of the costs of housing the inmate, but because of the social costs on the family and community they have been taken from. Solving these issues does require empathy, effort to understand and research, and commitment to keep at it. It’s certainly easier to lock people up and forget about them then to do that… and that’s the real crime here. We have been lazy as a society, and it’s costing us all. 

We can learn what makes kids like James tick and why they will end up making the choices they do. It will take effort, patience, and understanding – but by helping kids like James at a young age, we can prevent the next generation of addicts, criminals, and save ourselves a whole bunch of money and aggravation later down the line in the process.

Meanwhile, we’ll see James next week…**


**James now regularly comes to the Fairplay Center, a safe space where he can play, bathe, rest, and learn. He is part of the community and while he is still a long way from anything resembling a normal childhood, like many of the children we work with at the Fairplay for All Foundation, his situation is improving. It takes baby steps…

You can support the development and education of kids like James at the Fairplay Center by getting in touch with us at ffafoundation@gmail.com

Kids from Payatas in our Kinder group, learning emotional intelligence




The Official Opening of the Fairplay Center; To Become the First Demcratic School in the Philippines

center outside
Some of the many kids we work with outside our new Fairplay Center

On Sunday, December 13, with the help and support of the Silver Star Century Group, we at the Fairplay for All Foundation were able to open our new Fairplay Center.

The Fairplay Center is the base of our education programs at FFA. It’s a safe space in the community of Payatas (mostly known for having the largest dumpsite in the Philippines), where working and out of school children can come to learn, rest, and play.

The Opening

Left to right: Roy Moore (FFA), Richard Joson (CEO, SSCG), Dr. Ponciano Menguito (DEPED), Kenneth Lim (GM, SSCG) displaying the plaque now proudly on our wall.

So last Sunday, we celebrated the full, formal opening of the Fairplay Center. With the help of the Silver Star Century Group, the renovation was made possible from a run-down building with potential, to a fantastic facility with even more potential.

For several months we’ve been using the facility during the renovation period, and the extra space has been brilliant for the development of the program.

And with the culmination of the effort from all our team at FFA, we were able to fully open the Fairplay Center. This includes a Kinder area, given that many of the kids have to look after younger siblings – one of the reasons older girls in particular drop out of school. This means the younger kids learn and play while the older girls have the space and time to learn and rest too.

Some of our performers from the Opening, in the Studio

Upstairs we hold our main classes, with three classrooms known as Eureka (Science area), the Studio (Music and arts), and Lingua Franca (Literacy and language). Farming and other classes are still offered at the previous center too.

The backyard, the final piece of the puzzle, needs to be levelled before we can host more dance, sports, and martial arts too.

Homemade pancit canton, chop suey, tofu menudo, palabok, and more, made fresh by our Kitchen Nanays.

And what of our previous center? That will become the Fairplay Café, as in 2016 we can cater outside of Payatas to events – for example we can cater with healthy, tasty, homemade food for sports clinics, CSR events, and offices.

Link to before and after album of the Fairplay Center

A Brief History


center through the years ext.png
Our Trilogy of Drop-in Centers

In 2011, Naomi Tomlinson and I, Roy Moore, established the first drop-in center. With few funds and wanting to start from scratch to build things up by working with the community, we started off in a very run-down building along the main road.

Naomi ran the center at this point, organising 20-30 kids who came by each day for basic study. That was crowded. We had started sponsoring our first kids in the nearby public schools, though, and we were making progress. The point of the drop-in center was to get to know the kids and families so we could support those ready to go back to school/at risk of dropping out, and provide individual support for others.

By 2013, we had enough support to get a larger, more permanent base. Immediately the number of kids coming by each day doubled, though our teaching staff grew and the format began to develop.

center through the years int.png
Inside our Centers

Since Naomi went back to the UK to study, May (our project manager) and I have taken over everything with this project. And after much planning and preparation, we now have our new Fairplay Center; the final model of the program. The facility means we can transition from supplementary education – identifying kids who dropped out or never went to school at all – to providing full-time education ourselves in a happier, more effective learning environment.

The Rationale

Through the drop-in center model we identified children to get back into school, or who were at risk of dropping out. We currently sponsor 45 kids in the nearby public schools. These kids are for the most part doing very well in school; some are top 10 in their class, even top 5 and sometimes top 1. In classes of sometimes more than 80 children this is an impressive feat.

However that over-crowding also tells you something of the long-term feasibility of sponsoring children there. Sponsoring a child back into formal school is great for that kid, but in the long-run if we return every child to the classrooms, that overcrowding will become an even bigger issue and the quality of education will fall.

In addition, traditional school doesn’t suit everyone. It’s why so many kids drop out and have very low engagement across the world, not just in the Philippines. The traditional formal school model was created in Europe, then copied in America, and then brought to the rest of the world through colonialism. Countries saw it was good at teaching discipline, obedience, and uniformity (hence uniforms, strict schedules, and a reliance on obedience to the authority over the kids). There’s a great TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson here, about how this school system was created to make factory workers, and that it hasn’t really been updated since.

Informal education is surprisingly effective. The Spanish, for example, found that the Philippines had a higher literacy rate than Madrid when they first arrived (Woods, 2006). With no formal education system, the community based model was teaching people effectively for that period. Skip forward a few hundred years and more and more people are home-schooling because they’re seeing that the world is changing, and that education isn’t only possible in a school setting.

And beyond academics, more than basic literacy and academic measures, often the biggest problem in communities like Payatas is mindset. With constant negative attention, few kids have good self-esteem, self-confidence, or the emotional and social skills to effectively deal with what life brings. Not surprisingly that translates to very high dropout and very low engagement rates in poor communities – in the Philippines roughly 50% of students drop out at some point (Nava, 2009).

Emotional intelligence is key for their decisions and problem solving, and thus learning (Goleman, 1995). The Marshmallow Test is a good example of this, where those 4 year olds who could resist the lure of one marshmallow now to receive two marshmallows when the experimenter returned after 15 minutes (delayed gratification), scored much higher SAT scores even years later because of their underlying sense of emotional intelligence which allowed them to study longer and more effectively.

The first step with kids in Payatas, then, isn’t to find a building with better facilities, it’s to boost the intrinsic worth of the child. Until children are confident in themselves, trust themselves, and have developed control of their emotions, they rarely develop long-term learning patterns. The flipside of that, is that when the child sees they are capable of learning from their own motivation and action, when they feel treated with dignity, when they develop a growth mindset (Dweck), then with access to better facilities and the space and freedom to choose, those learning habits last a lifetime.

This is the basis for our new Fairplay Center; a school which develops social and emotional learning first. A child will likely never need to know what the capital of Madagascar is, or how to work out the area of a hexagon, but they will need to know how to respond to their emotions appropriately, how to develop constructive relationships with others, and how to delay their gratification and develop self-discipline so they can accomplish their goals.

Other intelligences follow, including the academic, but this must be the first step. One of our girls at the Center, one of our first five full-time students as we experiment with having full-time kids, dropped out of school in Grade 3, for example. After 2 and a half years of formal schooling she was totally illiterate. When she first came to the Center she was shy and disengaged, had a short temper and would lash out frequently. She was used to being called a failure and seemed to want to lash out at others before they could, in her mind, lash out at her by calling her a failure again – whether on a report card, on the streets, or back home.

DSC_0439.JPGAt the center, her emotional intelligence developed. Given the freedom to trust herself, she saw that the staff and kids here care for each other as individuals and joined in. She developed self-worth and began joining in with activities. Over time she signed up for many classes and less than a year later, she’s well on her way to reading stories – not just reading letters or words now. Meanwhile her confidence grew so much she was one of our dancers performing in front of 300 people at a recent event, as well as at the opening. When kids feel safe and happy, their learning jumps forward in huge leaps.

So What is Democratic Education?

This is why we’re really excited about our center developing into the first Democratic School in the Philippines. Of course many people haven’t heard of Democratic Education before, so what is it?

Inside the main area with our ‘rule’ and ‘Gratitude Galaxy’

In a nutshell, the idea is that everyone is free to do what they want, as long as they don’t disturb anyone else’s freedom: ‘Malaya tayong gawin ang gusto natin, huwag lamang tayo makaistorbo ng iba’.

In practice that immediately means students are free to join whichever classes they choose, if any at all. Attendance is optional, no-one is forced to do or learn anything. That means you have a classroom of engaged students, not kids forced to sit and listen. Importantly that also means teachers are free too. Teachers can teach what they want, how they want, not burdened by a National curriculum designed by politicians with no background in education, as happens across the world.

Typically, Democratic Schools also have a weekly meeting for the community. Anyone can raise up ideas and issues, everyone will discuss them, and then together vote on solution (one vote per person regardless of age).

To see more about how a Democratic School works you can check out this fantastic 4 part series via CBBC in the UK about Summerhill, the First Democratic School in the UK and usually the model for all subsequent schools built on this philosophy.

Democratic Schools already exist in over 30 countries. In Payatas, for those who have dropped out of formal school, for those who are trapped in a negative environment with constant criticism undermining their self-worth, it can be a fantastic place. As we develop our methods and as we show the data over the next two years, that will become clearer.

The current education system in the Philippines isn’t Filipino. It’s an efficiency model based on Western logic spread through conquest for the purposes of the conquerors.

But we can build a Filipino system, an education based on relationship and community, which harness the most positive aspects of Filipino culture. This is our dream with our education system, and week after week, month after month, it is becoming our reality.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this possible, especially the Silver Star Century Group for making the renovation of the Fairplay Center possible. Check out our video in preparation for the celebration of the event:

Get in touch with us at FFA be emailing: ffafoundation@gmail.com


The Next Chapter in Payatas FC’s Story: A Home for Payatas Football Club

Payatas Football Club is about to enter into a new era; we are about to get our own place to train. It may take weeks, it may take months, but it’s now sure to happen. It’s just a matter of time.

Through the support of companies like DTSI, Ortigas and Co., and Straight Arrow, FFA has purchased the first half of more than 1,000 square meters. These lots (actually 4 adjoining lots owned by the same family) are in the only place we know in Payatas that has land titles. Typically in Payatas you don’t own the land you’re on. Even though so many of the families here were relocated by the government (beginning in the 70s) to Payatas, they were relocated without an official place to live, nor prospects of employment. And so this land is the future for FFA and our programs.

The land where Payatas Sports Center will rise.

In particular that means Payatas Football Club has a future. For a long time now we’ve been unable to train. Many times we’ve reserved the barangay basketball court but shown up to find that our schedule (with signed approval of the barangay captain) has been revoked. Either an event from the barangay means we can no longer use it, or there are other groups scheduled at the same time and so it’s been triple booked, or even there are just basketballers playing and no-one will move them on. And by the time they’ve finished, typically hours later, we can no longer practice. There are some very nice people within the barangay, but others have told us that football shouldn’t be played on the court, they have not cared about the kids because they don’t vote, and also that I (Roy as the Coach) am not from there so shouldn’t be allowed to use it anyway – despite living in Payatas for 5 years now.

So for over half a year now our players have only been able to play on the streets. And for a team with such talents – including kids invited to the National Youth Teams, that’s been incredibly difficult.

How Payatas FC Started

Training in Payatas (with One World Futbol balls)

We are often asked how did Payatas FC begin. Well it began with 80 kids on a basketball court with two footballs and a coach who’d never coached before. Chairs for goals, slippers for cones, and a bunch of kids who’d never so much as kicked a football.

Payatas is known for trash. It’s home to the largest open dumpsite in the Philippines. Payatas is a mountain of trash, where hundreds of thousands of families live scavenging for something to sell, recycle, or even eat. But football became known in Payatas – one of the largest and poorest slums in the Philippines (a completely basketball-mad country for anyone reading outside of the Philippines).

You can check out this feature by FIFA TV early in Payatas FC’s story:

The Philippine National Football Team had just gone through to the Semi Finals of the Suzuki Cup (a tournament for countries in Southeast Asia). It was the first time they’d done so well in a tournament ever (well not quite, the Philippines were a decent side in the early 1900s before America took over Spain in colonising the country). The Philippines qualified for the Semi Finals of the competition, and it was such a big feat that it was one of Sports Illustrated’s top ten sports stories of the year.

This meant media attention, and the kids finally learned of the beautiful game – of the most popular game in the world. And they wanted to learn. So naturally, being English and born and bred with football, I was happy to coach.

For many of the kids, joining tournaments outside of Payatas were the only times they left the sight and smell of garbage. It helped them learn to dream again.

Every Saturday we would go down to Payatas and train the kids. And soon after Naomi Tomlinson came to the Philippines too and together we founded the Fairplay for All Foundation. Payatas FC began to develop and became a full project and brought constructive sports to the kids, built an identity, broke down barriers, and kept kids away from drugs and gangs.

Jacko’s Story

Jacko during a tournament at the British School of Manila

Our players are among the poorest kids in the country. One family sums up the holistic nature of the poverty cycle in Payatas. Jacko is the youngest of three boys. His two older brothers also work as jumper boys – kids who climb inside garbage trucks as they drive by to scavenge trash and sell it to junkshops. They make around P50 a day (just over $1 and just under £1) working often 2am until dawn and another shift later in the day.

It’s dangerous work. One time Jacko had found metal in the trash, and began flattening it out with a hammer, as all metal sold to junkshops must be flattened. Being 7 years old at the time he didn’t realise it was a strip of bullets someone had just thrown in the trash. As he hammered away, one bullet exploded and flew off hitting his brother. Fortunately it just hit him in the leg, though his older brother was left with a bullet in his leg for half a year. Other kids have died from scavenging, hit by trucks or killed on the dumpsite itself. It’s dangerous work, but when your family needs money to eat that day you have to do it.

One of the reasons Jacko needs to work is because he’s orphaned. His mother died when he was a baby, his mother was just 19 years old at the time. She was first pregnant at 12 years old and had three boys before dying of a heart attack. A series of events unfortunately not unique in slums. His father was stabbed a year later.

Jacko joined Payatas FC after one of our older kids began training him and other kids in his street. Quickly Jacko progressed and became a key part of our younger teams. He was also one of 10 kids invited to join Kaya FC’s Academy. Jacko has many medals and trophies to his name now, and is proud to wear the Payatas FC jersey. Most pleasing of all, though, is that he always wears a smile.

National Team Players

angelica w beckham cropped
Angelica at a training camp by LA Galaxy, inc. David Beckham

Other children have huge potential too. Angelica is now 14 years old and was invited to join the National U14 Girls Team. She was unfortunately homesick during the training camp, though, and so didn’t join the final squad but another of our girls did the following year, Regine. Regine’s younger sister may very well make the squad the following year. There are many strong female players in Payatas.

Imagine, if Payatas FC has players good enough for the Philippine youth teams after playing barefoot on a basketball court at most once a week, how good will the players be with multiple trainings for their age groups? On our own court. We’re talking University scholarships and a whole lot more national team players.

Angelica’s story is also inspirational, telling of the big talents if the right opportunity is presented. At 4 years old she had fallen in Payatas and hit her head  on a piece of iron. Symptoms of the damage, though, only appeared when she was 9, as it turned out Angelica was walking round with a cracked skull for 5 years. During that time she joined her father in his truck to pick up garbage throughout Manila, on one of the usual Payatas garbage trucks.

Suddenly Angelica had an episode, half her face drooped, she slurred her speech and couldn’t hold her head up, ‘naging isip-bata daw’ (she became like a child). Fortunately she got treatment and recovered. A year later and Angelica joined Payatas FC trainings. A year and a half of training on a basketball court, once a week, barefoot, with 80 other kids crowded around, and she was invited to the National Team – one of the best girls in the country for her age.

The year after she joined Team Philippines in the Street Child World Cup, and was a key part of the team that won silver – as the youngest girl in the teams in the Quarter Finals, playing against 17 and 18 year olds.

A Home for Payatas FC

This is the kind of potential we’re talking about. True grassroots football where kids who love the game and have used it to improve their emotional, social, and academic performances. Kids who have learned and developed on and off the pitch. Not just becoming talented footballers, but better people too.

And so it’s with great pleasure – absolutely huge pleasure – that we can announce that we’re now ready for a futsal court, a 5 a side concrete pitch to play on. It’s the first step in a fully developed Sports Center, a place where we can have trainings every day, higher quality trainings in every age, and also host regular youth leagues for the city too.

Everyone can help to make this a reality as FFA fundraises for the court itself. After a full costing by people within the construction industry and local workers, we are looking to raise up to P750,000 for the court. P500,000 for the court itself, and the remaining P250,000 for equipment and trainings for players, coaches, security, and referees. Our own court means the full pyramid of grassroots football can develop. And through hosting leagues and tournaments, we can generate income for the running costs – making it self-sustainable once ready.

You can donate to the project via our JustGiving page, or email us at ffafoundation@gmail.com for more information. For those who don’t have money to give, consider fundraising too; run a marathon, climb a mountain, do your own thing. Everyone can contribute in their own way if you believe in the goal.

DONATE: https://www.justgiving.com/PayatasSportsCenter/


A Welcome Development in Local Grassroots Football: LBC Foundation’s GK Liga and the Quezon City OPES Futsal League

Right now Payatas FC, the team we run at the Fairplay for All Foundation composed of kids living at the foot of Payatas dumpsite, are involved in two youth leagues. It’s an exciting – if busy – time for football here.

LBC GK LigaLBC Foundation’s GK Liga

The first we generally play on Saturdays, as we were kindly invited by Gawad Kalinga to be the first guest team for GK Liga, sponsored by the LBC Foundation. We’ve always enjoyed working with Gawad Kalinga. The first major collaboration was with Team Philippines in the Street Child World Cup, where 5 GK players made the final cut for the team. We also had a joint GK and Payatas FC team in RIFA thanks to FEU providing a slot under them. Now Payatas FC is the first guest team of LBC Foundation’s GK Liga.

With a home and away format for 15s, 12s, and 10s, this means every team will play 18 games over the course of the 5 months of the league. If I’m not mistaken, GK Liga is the longest youth league in the country.

The match rules are also built for player development. The 10s play without a goalkeeper, with 4 smaller goals instead. Each team aims for their two goals and learn to switch the play if one is guarded. The U12s and U15s play futsal (5 a side, goalkeeper and a goal), though the U12s must put 3 passes together before they can score. The U15s are straight futsal as by that time they graduated from the U10s and U12s already. Another point is that goals from girls count double, encouraging teams to get more girls involved in their games.

One of the many good things about the league is that it’s run by volunteer alumni of GK. Each community is headed by 18-24 year olds who played football under GK . They meet each month to go through the rules and challenges of the past games, learning as they go. Naturally problems arise and mistakes are made. But this experience is invaluable for the admin and management, as well as the players, because it’s all part of a supportive environment. It’s all a learning process.

Gawad Kalinga have put together the biggest youth league in the country, as far as I’m aware, and we’re grateful to be a part of it!

Quezon City OPES Futsal League

The second development is a futsal league for Quezon City. It’s a constant challenge for youth teams to brave the Manila traffic. When I was writing regularly for GMA I wrote about this in a series of articles about Pinoy Moneyball – how players often spend more time in traffic than on the pitch.

The Quezon City OPES Futsal League is a solution to that, among other things. Run by Ralph Spencer and myself, the QC OPES league provides regular competition at a central venue, the Olympian Preparatory and English School in North Fairview. By limiting costs, the league has no registration fees, making it the perfect place to develop the players – to field a B or C team, or let younger or newer players get playing time. We also have a rule in place to prevent blowouts and with no trophies teams play for fun and for development.

Training in Payatas. It's often difficult ot find a regular place to train with basketballers dominating the court and even scheduled practices being kicked out by local officials.
Training in Payatas. It’s often difficult ot find a regular place to train with basketballers dominating the court and even scheduled practices being kicked out by local officials.

As always nothing’s perfect. This is the pilot league to work out the kinks and for us to get the model working. The potential is there though. Teams are lining up for a 2nd season. Currently we have 7 teams each with two age groups (born 2000+ and 2004+). Though in the future 9 will be the perfect number of teams under this format – where three teams play a round robin in an afternoon. With two games each visit (15 minutes each half) that’s a full hour of playing time, usually a lot more than a one day tournament for most teams too, and without the P3,000 fee. That’s why leagues are the backbone of every decent grassroots system.

The Vision

So here’s the vision: each city in Metro Manila provides a futsal venue. Two City Organizers run a futsal league on the weekend. This provides regular competition, in a format which gives six times as many touches, among other benefits noted in Rappler by Miguel Bermundo.

Photo c/o connorsportcourt.com
Photo c/o connorsportcourt.com

Every team gets regular competition within a reasonable distance. Then at the end of the season the top two teams from each city meet for a Champions League. City versus City, in a one day big event extravaganza. The league provides the player development and sustainability. The City Rivalry and Champions League builds the hype and draws the crowds.

Existing stadiums equipped for basketball and volleyball games now become potential venues for fast, action packed football. Think of it as a stepping stone for new fans, who get all the goals, all the action, and begin to understand the beautiful game. The potential of growing the sport is huge.

So together what GK Liga and the Quezon City OPES Futsal League show is regular leagues in Metro Manila are possible. It shows a better tool of player development than one day tournaments. And it shows with the right motivation this is possible – at low cost too. Collectively such a system provides a futsal court (venue), develops players (the product), and draws the crowds (market).

Nothing is perfect, and something like this always takes a lot of hard-work. But it’s exciting.

In the meantime you can support our team in Payatas, where we will be building a futsal court for leagues in the future, by donating for your own Payatas FC jersey. Click the photo below or follow the link here to see more about Payatas FC and fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page: http://fairplayforall.weebly.com/payatas-fc.html or email ffasocialenterprise@gmail.com for more info.

AJ (Team Philippines, 2014 Street Child World Cup) and Regine (Philippines U14 Girls, 2015)
AJ (Team Philippines, 2014 Street Child World Cup) and Regine (Philippines U14 Girls, 2015)

Girl From Payatas Makes Philippines U14 Girls’ National Team for AFC Regional Championships

Regine taking on two boys in 2v2 in Payatas
Regine taking on two boys in 2v2 in Payatas

Regine, a girl born and raised in Payatas (one of the biggest and poorest slums in the Philippines), has made it to the Philippine National Football Team. Joining the 18-girl squad for the U14 AFC Regional Championships, Regine and the rest of the Philippine team will face group hosts Vietnam on the 23rd, Singapore on the 24th, and Malaysia on the 25th June.

Payatas is most renowned for being the home of the largest dumpsite in the Philippines, and it is also home to up to 500,000 people who typically live off the garbage industry through scavenging. But slowly the reputation is changing as more and more gems like Regine are uncovered and people begin to realise the true potential in Payatas.

Regine against her younger sister in 2v2 in Payatas
Regine against her younger sister in 2v2 in Payatas

Trained by Payatas FC, of the Fairplay for All Foundation (FFA), Regine quickly stood out not just in the girls division but for any player in her age category. A natural attacker, she combined well with her younger sister to pass through any boys in their way.

On the same weekend when she was 11 years old, she won the MVP award for a boys U12 tournament and a boys U14 tournament. She would have joined Team Philippines for the Street Child World Cup also, but was too young for the competition. Later she joined Kaya’s Academy for the U17 girls, playing in the UFL Youth League’s U17 Girls Division at 12 years old. Now at 13, Regine has shown she has the ability to be one of the top female players in the country by making it to the final 18 of the Philippines U14 Girls.

You can check out some of Regine’s moves in this video of Payatas FC celebrating the team’s 4th year in Payatas. She’s the girl in red scoring goals from 2:45 onwards.

The U14 Philippine Girls surprised ASEAN last year when they won silver. Another girl from Payatas FC, Angelica, had been invited to join the National team but was homesick and dropped out of the training camp of 32 girls in 2012 and felt she couldn’t join in 2013.

For such young girls, these feelings are entirely normal. Not least when you consider the difficult backgrounds many such players are coming from. However it also shows the huge potential of Payatas with girls invited to the National team in each of the last 3 years, and strong potentials for the next few years too.

The boys are doing well also with 10 players in all previously part of Kaya’s Academy. Distance and transport costs proved difficult to maintain, as Payatas is far from any football field. Payatas FC, though, were featured in the past by FIFA, by the major local channels, and in an upcoming CNN Philippines feature.

A Home for Payatas FC

There is so much potential in the area for grassroots development. Payatas FC has shown it’s producing great players, despite training on a basketball court barefoot once or twice a week, with 60-80 players at each practice.

Regularly the team have been kicked off the barangay’s basketball court by older basketballers, schedules have been ignored, and when the team does get to practice it’s not very regularly or for very long. This prevents us from breaking down the kids into age groups and providing more advanced trainings. So given all the limitations, including malnourishment which often sees Payatas FC players only half as tall as some of their opponents, the kids are doing brilliantly. Imagine how much better the players and development can be if we have our own futsal court.

Picture source: www.connorsportcourt.com
Picture source: http://www.connorsportcourt.com

And this is FFA’s dream for 2015, to complete the purchase of nearby titled land in Payatas to build a futsal court. Our own futsal court will mean we won’t lose so many kids in training, as they get used to the drills. It means we won’t lose the older kids who find something for their age group. And it means we won’t lose all that potential that is clearly here. If we’re producing players good enough for National Youth Teams with what we’re doing right now, how much better will the players get with our own futsal court and professional training?

Build a Home for Payatas FC

FFA Drop-in centre Manager and Urban Farmer May, modelling the new jersey
FFA Drop-in centre Manager and Urban Farmer May, modelling the new jersey

To this end, you can now you can join the Payatas FC Supporter’s Club to help build a home for Payatas FC. All it takes is a P1,000 donation and you will net your own:

  • 2015/2016 Season Payatas FC jersey (sponsored by StraightArrow, a local marketing company)
  • Polvoron and other home-made goodies from FFA’s urban farm
  • And exclusively for those who pre-order by July 31, a Team Philippines jersey from the Street Child World Cup (while stocks last).

Everyone who pre-orders by July 31 will also be entered into a raffle to win one of three Waka Wakas, a solar powered torch and power bank that can charge your smartphone on the go, worth P3,500 each. Courtesy of Witsenburg Natural Products.

Picture Source: www.product-reviews.net
Picture Source: http://www.product-reviews.net

So it’s a great opportunity to help build a home for Payatas FC, whilst giving yourself a chance to win some great prizes too. Email: ffasocialenterprise@gmail.com for more information on how you can be part of the Payatas FC Supporter’s Club and proudly support grassroots football in Payatas and the Philippines.

*Last names of minors have been withheld as a child protection policy