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.
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the barangay basketball court but shown up to find that our schedule (with signed approval of the barangay captain) has been revoked.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
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.