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)

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