It took a lot of work to get to this point, but we can finally say that Philippine futsal is undoubtedly on the rise. On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) held the nation’s first National Youth Futsal Cup at the University of Asia and the Pacific. The tournament featured 16 teams from all over the country composed of kids aged 14 and under, and—to put things simply—the youngsters made the most of the spotlight.

In the men’s division, La Salle-Greenhills won first place by defeating Malaya 1-0 in a gritty finals match, while Iloilo snatched third place. The women’s division, however, featured an even more hotly contested final, where eventual champions Naga defeated Tuloy sa Don Bosco in a penalty shootout, 2-1, while Cordillera placed third.

La Salle-Greenhills won the men’s division after defeating Malaya, 1-0, in the Final (Photo by Mari Torres)

What was at stake during the tournament, however, was not simply the glory of victory. During the match, the organizers—including Coach Alfredo Estacion from the PFF—selected the five best players, who will be sent to Bali, Indonesia, to participate in the Allianz Junior Football Camp, where coaches from dominant German Bundesliga team Bayern Munich will serve as their mentors. The two most impressive Filipino players in that camp will then be sent to Munich for even more intensive training.

After serious deliberation, Coach Estacion announced that the tournament’s mythical five was composed of Tuloy sa Don Bosco’s Michael Antillo and Archie Dela Cruz, Malaya’s JM Mitra, Iloilo’s Konrad Soilurin, and Goshenland’s Aeron Tenollo. Estacion also emphasized the important role futsal could play in developing young football players.

“If you look at all the famous players in Europe, [many of them] came from futsal, like Neymar” said Estacion. “To those of you who played futsal today—I think you’re on the right track,” he continued.

After the finals, the organizers also spoke about how futsal opens doors for Filipino athletes to reach their full potential. Danny Moran, Chairman of the Henry V. Moran Foundation which helped organize the tournament, also spoke in particular about how developing futsal could shape and improve the country’s athletic fortunes and, more importantly, the character of the children playing the sport.

“[Most] public schools don’t really have access to football fields. They can’t really play football, but they can learn football skills by playing futsal,” said Moran. “If we can get more players playing more regularly—if we can have more competitions—the caliber of the game will improve.”

The Women’s Final ended in a penalty shootout, which saw the team from Naga defeat Tuloy sa Don Bosco, 2-1 (Photo by Mari Torres)

Moran, himself a former member of the Philippine National Football Team, pointed out how much Philippine athletics could stand to gain from a more developed futsal community.

“If there had been more futsal [in the past], football would be a more popular sport today,” said Moran. “I was fortunate to have a school that had a good football field, but many schools don’t have one. So those schools where there’s a lot of potential talent—they never got to play.”

“Given the way we Filipinos are built, if we put our attention into football, I think we can be just like the South American teams,” he continued. “Players like Messi and Neymar are not physically big. We could be on the same level.”

When asked why their foundation focuses on planning tournaments geared towards youth, Moran added that sports, in general, has a positive impact on the lives of kids.

“The sooner [kids] start playing, the better. Our research shows that playing futsal isn’t only good for [developing] the sport; it also helps kids do better academically, and even in terms of character development… it improves their holistic development in so many ways,” said Moran.

According to Moran, Allianz, the primary sponsor of the tournament, seemed open to hosting another tournament next year.

“I think this will be a yearly thing. I think they want to make it grow bigger, and so do we. This was a good first time encounter. We organized it; they sponsored it; and they saw how the PFF ran the event,” said Moran. “I think they’re happy, and I think we, along with the participants, can look forward to doing it again next year.”

UA&P is home to the first international regulation-size futsal court in the Philippines which was supplied by E-Sports International. For inquires, send us a message through info@esports.ph, or call us at 632.809.7134.

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