The Prequel: How Team Philippines Got to Brazil

At the Fairplay for All Foundation we sent two successful teams to Brazil for the Street Child World Cup. But for a long-time it looked like only one would go. And for a short time it looked like neither would go. This is the story of how we got to Brazil…

In the Beginning There Was a Committee…

In early 2013, preparations for the Philippine team in the Street Child World Cup began. There were four of us who formed the committee, an overall manager who would do most of the fundraising, a finance guy to do the rest of the fundraising and manage leads and accounting, me as the football guy, and someone else who would help advise, pick up on some leads, and generally help out where time would permit.

The scouting tournaments began in March, held at a children’s home in Manila. It went well, with 5 boys teams there though just three girls teams (two of which I coached) – as it ended up 4 of the girls and 4 of the boys who were at the first one were eventually selected in the final teams so it was successful. Also there to show his support was half Filipino freestyler Philip Warren Gertsson – who eventually made this sick video to support Team Philippines. My jaw literally dropped at some of the tricks.

So we looked to hold a tournament every month but things started going downhill. The day before the second scouting tournament, for example, I got a phone call from someone helping to organise these things – kind of a middle man for some of the teams and the children’s home that was the venue. He asked if the tournament was still going ahead. I was surprised because I hadn’t heard anything else and had even seen him and the Coach of the children’s home that week to confirm everything. “Of course” I said, “Why?”. He explained that the children’s home were holding a Sportsfest that day, so they would be using the whole field… so after weeks of discussion, of arranging the teams, and a final conversation and confirmation just days before, they had somehow forgotten the field wasn’t actually available that day. For this reason, and others best kept private, it quickly became apparent a new place and new people were needed.

Witsenburg_LogoFortunately Witsenburg Natural Products came on board at this point. A Dutch company working in the organic coconut industry in the Philippines, they funded the scouting, tournaments, and preparation for the team. This meant we could have a look at other locations to hold the tournaments and scout further afield. The plan was to later visit Davao, Iloilo, Cebu, and other areas for scouting. So the next tournaments were held at Kick Off and The Camp, two great artificial turfs. Also with the confirmation that the tournament in Brazil would be 7 a side, these became the perfect places for 7 a side football and we didn’t have to worry about the weather either 🙂

Up to this point I was largely just working on the football. One of the committee members, who works for a multinational bank, confirmed their bank would be sponsoring at least US$20,000. Another had other big leads. Given that the tickets were the biggest concern (and ended up costing almost P2.5 million for the 18 kids and 6 staff, after a group discount through Emirates), it was a good start to the financial side.

The first bit of bad news with the sponsorship came around this time, though. Some time ago we had written a long project proposal on this and come up with a plan to basically cover all of our costs based on our estimate – through giving exposure to the companies involved. I wrote the content and Jacques Palami helped make it look good visually and we ended with a great proposal. After seeing and praising it, it was even shared with the other teams – to show them an example. Then we were told that we couldn’t actually sell those patches anymore… everything changed.

"I'll never let go" she says... and then she lets go... right after saying it. Letting him drift off  I never understood that part
“I’ll never let go” she says… and then she lets go… right after saying it. Letting him drift off to the bottom of the sea and die when she could have just shifted up that piece of wreckage and let him climb on and live too…

But this is the time also when the committee started to break up, in epic romantic comedy proportions. First the guy at the bank went abroad to start and head up the bank’s division in another country. This was always the plan so it was no surprise or shock. At his leaving party the only guy higher up then him in the Philippines also confirmed they would be helping the project financially so we didn’t need to worry about anything changing. Then another committee member had to leave the country because of health problems. It wasn’t his fault and it was only expected to be short term. But then weeks turned into months and then a year… so everything was lumped on me. In this analogy, I was left drifting on a piece of broken ship in freezing waters.

I wouldn't mind being married to Kim Kardashian for a week or two... but no longer
And as quickly as a Kim Kardashian marriage the committee separated.

The Witsenburg Scouting Tournaments continued almost every month though and it was great to follow the kids’ progress. On the pitch things were good. Off the pitch it was proving difficult. The money from the multinational bank that was promised disappeared… either the promise was forgotten or something changed and we just weren’t told about it. Then given all the extra work, I ended up having just a day or two to revise for each of my comprehensive exams (the final exams for my Master’s degree). So I ended up failing two of the three exams as you’re supposed to study for months for each one.

Worse was to follow a couple of months later as Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines. A lot has been said on that with what happened and of course so much emergency relief was needed. Understandably, then, the relief efforts became the focus of all charity and fundraising work.

What it meant for Team Philippines, though, is that all our sponsors went and everyone who was vaguely interested in the project to those whose pens were inches away from signing the deal, vanished… and months of work with it. We could also obviously not scout in those areas either. So things got a bit desperate. With time running out it was looking difficult for the teams.

As is the usual situation in charity work so many people promise things. I remember speaking with about five different groups who talked about how inspired they were and how they would work with us to sponsor the team. We exchanged contact details, I sent across the proposal we discussed, followed up… no reply. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to talk with someone and see how inspired they get by the conversation, by meeting the kids, and seeing the project, then to talk about sponsorship, to have them say directly they’ll sponsor you and after all the work and effort that goes into it… and then to get no reply or a short email in response to say they can no longer support the project. Perhaps to them it just seems like “oh it’s just for charity, pwede na”, broken promisecharity is just something they do in their spare time and they forget it’s not just my job, my full-time work, but that for many of the kids it’s their whole life. It’s the difference between a child working scavenging through trash for the rest of his short life, and him going to school, getting an education, working in a safe occupation and helping his family to a normal life expectancy.

If you talk with someone and they say they can’t, or they won’t, that’s fine. They have their reasons and it’s OK cos you know where you stand. The worst part is when people are genuinely interested and ask so much, ask you to invest time and energy into showing them round, explaining everything to them, presenting it at meetings, and make promises, then… silence. That’s the frustrating part, not just for myself, but for all the kids that it would have helped as ultimately it’s to them they made the promise and it’s them they let down.

As a small example, I spoke at an event with a group from UST (University of Santo Tomas). They invited me to speak, filmed the kids at a training event doing some promo things for their event, and then had a very successful and fancy event with hundreds of people. I even got a nice plaque of appreciation for speaking. Half a year later and they’ve only just managed to give half of the small amount they promised us… I’ve given up following that one up.

So at the end of 2013 I went back to England for Christmas, to see my family, the first time in four years I was with them for Christmas. It was such a needed break being on the verge of burnout.

ANI logo LRG copyThings were difficult but I came back after the break at least a little more refreshed and human. And at the start of 2014 we had some great news: AgriNurture, INC came on board for the girls. This had taken a few months to set up but the final confirmation and agreement was made and it guaranteed that the girls could go. AgriNurture is a local company who work with farmers across the Philippines in many different aspects of agriculture. Needless to say this was great news.

The boys were still fifty-fifty, though, if they could go at all. There were still lots of promises and interest floating around, but as a charity you can never trust anyone until the money is in the account. Time was running out to get all of the administration done in time also and so a decision had to be made. So we chose to go ahead with the boys, covering everything as FFA until a main sponsor would confirm. There proved to be about six good leads after that, but unfortunately the real world isn’t quite as easy as it is in Alec Baldwin’s epic Glengary Glen Ross speech about sales… If changing the world was an easy sell, there would be nothing left to change.

A few others came on board just before we flew out, Cordaid took on a portion of the boys’ sponsorship, Muslim Hands helped the boys’ costs in Rio via SCWC, and some individual donors were very kind in supporting the team. Globe sponsored the training kits and those for selling for fundraising too. More about that in the final chapter of the story next week.

Some, however, were not so great. One of the international sponsors for the full event was a multinational corporation, who gave every team to a certain amount for their costs in Rio. Then each of their national offices were assigned to fundraise for specific teams. Hearing that the USA office would fundraise for us was good news as with many Filipinos and thousands of employees, much was expected. Their managers spoke to one of the committee about how it’d be great and others told us it’d raise so much. In the end this huge multinational corporation managed to pull together £700 in almost a year… which was more then a little underwhelming.

The CAMP logoAt this point the kids for the teams were selected and joined the training camp. From seven different charities and organisations across the Philippines, representing all the different kids and types of street and working children, the final 18 was announced. We trained together at The Camp, with the help of Noriel, Erica, and Roberto who were alumni from the 2010 competition, as well as Captain of Team Socceroo, Enzo Pinga. bootcampFittingly, the camp was held at The Camp in Taguig. So every MWF we drove down there to train and this really boosted the players’ levels. Then Bootcamp Football Shop sponsored the kids with their own pair of brand new, quality boots. I was expecting simple or even second hand boots but everything Bootcamp does is quality so if you need to get kitted out head there. So the kids were developing quickly and more then held their own in friendlies against Western Bicutan, UP Diliman, FEU, and the Kaya Academy girls. Thanks to everyone involved there!

So we only had time left to focus on the paperwork, the passports, and travel clearances… though this was a nightmare. Right off the bat, as we know the ending to this story, I’d like to again say a huge thank you to all the staff at the Fairplay for All Foundation and at ASCF, who run Mango Tree House. Without those guys Team Philippines would never have made it onto the plane.

It felt like this… sort of

To cut a long story short, the travel clearances took four goes for most of them as DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) first let us know the requirements, we went there with them, and then they told us there were extra requirements so we couldn’t file them yet. And repeat. Eventually they were all submitted, and eventually they were all released. The issue was time now… On to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). From the start the DFA were the opposite, they were really helpful in being clear about the requirements and helping us process everything. Without their professionalism I doubt we would have made it either. The last application to be received was less then a week before we were to fly out, DSWD had lost one of the girls’ birth certificates while doing the travel clearances so we had to rush to NSO and spend a day there getting a new one. It took a monumental effort in a group of juxtapositions that would make Dali feel like he was inside one of his paintings, but eventually all the applications were in and we just had to wait.

We were to fly out on the Thursday, and on the Tuesday the passports weren’t yet ready. Then at the final training session on the Wednesday, Naomi (co-founder of FFA) returned with the ASCF staff and all of the passports in what is probably the first time I’ve been happy to see Naomi (British humour).

And we made it.

It took a monumental effort and just getting to the Street Child World Cup was probably the biggest achievement. It took everything out of me, and a lot out of many people. But it’s done… the kids were great on and off the pitch. And we came back with a big ass trophy!


As always a huge thank you to everyone who’s been a part of that. Our sponsors were fantastic and a huge thank you to them. We’ve been very fortunate in that respect as they understand that the real changes happens over time and with sustainable, long-term projects, and so that will be the focus of the final chapter in this story: The Sequel. What Happens Next?



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