Everyone was fully supportive when early last year, the management of the women’s senior team said it would take over the handling of the U17 and U19 teams. After securing the country’s historic first berth in the Fifa World Cup, no one questioned the move? A move that was meant to make it easier for the senior team to spot Pinay talents all over the world who could, someday, be tapped for the senior team.
But hindsight gives you 20/20 vision and in hindsight, the (Philippine Football Federation) PFF should have never agreed to such a move. Adopting the Filipinas’ practice of scouring the globe for the best talent there is to suit up for the national squad may be perfect for our senior team but is disastrous for the youth teams.
Why? It’s simple. What’s the point in molding our next Sarina Bolden when they won’t get a chance to suit up for the national team? Because when the best-of-the-best of our homegrown talents gets weighed next to Pinays raised abroad, they fall short due to the structure and football culture those raised abroad lived in.
I read a comment in my last column, where someone said the country benefits from having the heritage players in your youth system. Sorry to burst your bubble. Nope, it’s the other way around. It’s the heritage players who benefit, not Philippine football.
Let’s be brutally honest for once. The heritage players are trying out for the Philippine team because they are a dime a dozen in their home country and are not good enough for the national youth teams. By trying out and making the Philippine team, their stock rose in their home country. If they could, they’d pick the English, Swedish, the United States or whatever side over the Philippines.
So, how can the PFF strike a balance?
Well, over the years, I’ve touted how the PFF is the perfect national sports association that every sport in the country should follow, but in this case, Philippine football should follow Philippine basketball.
Philippine basketball only had a handful of heritage players in the youth teams, and these were the exceptional ones. We can adopt that for football and limit the spots for the youth teams to one-of-kind heritage players.
That means, of course, that we would lose and won’t be as successful as the senior team.
Yeah. So what?
In normal footballing countries, the success of the senior team reflects the strength of a country’s grassroots program. That is not the case of the Philippines, which has tapped the Philippine diaspora for the senior men’s and women’s teams.
Our youth system has been trying to play catchup with the success of our senior teams but adopting the Filipinas model for the youth system is akin to abandoning our own youth system, fragile and limited as it is.
This shortcut method of adopting the Filipinas system is detrimental to Philippine youth football.