Payatas FC and football are taking up more and more time recently – not that I’m complaining :p
We had another training session last Saturday and it seems the kids are improving which is a great sign. Starting to pick out some of the players who may be able to form a competitive team as we sorted training and fixed it to Saturdays 10-12. We’ve already had offers of joining a tournament and friendly fixtures and so are training to get good for that so we can accept those challenges. Kasiglahan had training again, which was unplanned. I got a text from one of the people volunteering with the charity who said there were some kids asking if there was training this week as they wanted to play. So, we got the Mango kids involved and had an impromptu training session which will turn into a regular one and another team. The interest is quite incredible given football was mostly unknown here just a few months ago. Credit has to go to the Azkals and the PFF for kicking out the politics from football and getting the focus on the game – now the team travel to Mongolia with a 2-0 advantage after playing an international match at home for the first time in three years – not only that but the PFF also gave out so many free tickets to show that it wasn’t about the money or the politics but the love of the game.
For me, football is fantastic but it’s not enough by itself to dedicate my life to. It’s a great game, but there always has to be more than a game to find meaning. There’s something that football does, though, which transcends that and crosses over. For the Philippines, there is a great source of national pride and identity now with the Azkals, and deservedly so. For me, being part of a country transitioning towards one confident in it’s identity and proud to be Pinoy is fantastic, but there’s something else which makes it even better. Football is like a gateway, an enabling factor that if used well can empower the poorest and the least powerful of us all. Payatas FC will prove that, but it’s only a small handful of people who can make it in sport. So, Triple E, the charity in England started by Naomi Tomlinson that I’m working with, will be providing that next step, empowering the people in the areas we work through education and opportunity to have a chance at life. Our main target are the street kids, children who, for whatever, reason, have ended up living on the streets of Manila. Usually the causes are poverty or abuse, and so we are now firming up plans to provide a drop-in centre for street kids, where there are facilities for football and other games (usable on condition the kids are not using drugs), a basic nutritional aspect measuring BMI and acting accordingly (particularly pertinent given that a lack of food is perhaps the major cause of drug abuse among street kids) and counselling services. These services, headed by the social worker will look to assess the child and to find out the reasons they ended up on the street. If it’s poverty, they have a loving family but they can’t afford to provide for their needs, then we refer them to the Grapevine project of ASCF for example, an educational sponsorship programme for kids in families too poor to send them to school. If it’s abuse, we look at permanent residences and shelters built for this perhaps – like Mango, the children’s home I still work with and where many of the kids playing football for the Kasiglahan team train. There are posts on both in this blog if you look much further down.
So, football is a great enabler, a way to get to kids and to keep them active and healthy. More than that, though, it can be a gateway to helping make serious long-term changes and altering the course of their lives dramatically. We are really excited at the prospect of a match between Tondo and Payatas, kids from two rubbish dumps, kids who are often thought of as the least in society, playing a football match against each other to show that on a level playing field they are just as good as anyone else – to highlight the problems of society and to show that eradicating poverty can be fun too! Everyone deserves a chance at life, the opportunity to succeed, and together we can make the difference and enable the kids of the poorest communities to do that. More than that we can have fun doing it too. People from Maharlika too have approached us about making a football team, a Muslim team which will be aimed towards bridging the divides between people – about uniting people through football and the level playing field it provides (depending on how good the groundsman is of course).
If we can make teams in the poorest communities, any one of us can start teams in other areas – building on the success of the international team and the PFF to not only spread football but spread the opportunities that football provides. Filipinos have great potential in this and have so much to be proud of in their country. While it is the dream of many Filipinos to leave the country and find work elsewhere, it is the greater dream of so many others to stay and make the country better. In that, they not only deserve respect, but they understand that the country has the potential to be great. Coming from Great Britain, I don’t consider Britain to be Great. While there are some really good things in Britain, the lack of community, the lack of respect and the lack of relationship there is quite daunting. So I chose to come to the Philippines knowing that the people are even more harworking, creative and should be proud to be Pinoy! If we can start a football team in areas like Kasiglahan and Payatas, then you guys can start a team in your own barangay, linking that to education and providing for the poorest people in the community. We are all capable of great things, so now it’s time to become part of something good!!