A post in one of my favorite online pages lamented at how football isn’t a popular sport in the country. The guy pointed out that barangay leagues attract more fans than professional football league in the country.
It’s a sad fact. The PFL would count itself lucky if it has 200 paying fans in the stands.
Unlike some rabid football fans who see a football vs. basketball divide, the guy hoped to see football become more popular without the country abandoning its basketball identity.
But, as a football fan who has been following Philippine football for more than two decades, to make football popular in the country, the Philippine Football Federation has to abandon its program and concentrate on that.
For the past decade, the PFF has, thanks to the Hanoi Miracle, launched coaching, referees and grassroots programs, increasing the number of licensed coaches, referees and its player database.
For an NSA, the PFF has more than done its job. If you doubt it, judge it by what the other NSAs have done.
But to make the sport as popular as basketball?
Forget the coaching or referee’s clinics. Forget the player identification program.
To do that, the PFF has to identify the open public spaces in the country, and make a deal with the LGU to make it a football-centric area.
Is that doable?
I think it is.
Towns founded during the Spanish era follow a template, a town plaza lies between the church and the Municipal Hall. All the PFF has to do is make a deal with the LGU to ensure that the green space will be used for football.
But then again, that’s easier said than done. That means the PFF would be assigning individuals to go deal with the LGUs, individuals who would otherwise be teaching football in the present setting.
Forget the professional leagues.
Forget the Azkals.
Forget the Malditas even.
It’s a reboot that Philippine football needs.
But then again, it becomes a chicken and egg thing.
We’re talking about that dream, to make football a sport for everyone, because of what the Malditas and to up to 2018, the Azkals have done.
So the PFF has to sustain a program dependent on the strength of Pinoys and Pinays raised abroad, while starting a grassroots program which, by design, is limited by how football is inaccessible to the majority of the population.
The PFF can’t make the sport the second-most popular sport in the country.
To get to that, it needs out-of-the-box thinking from the PFF coupled with a community response. There are pockets of hope, but I’m afraid they are not enough.
Making football popular enough to have kids make their own courts and balls will remain a pipe dream.
And that’s from someone who has covered the sports for more than two decades and who has dreamed of such.
June 04, 2023
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