By Michael Angelo S. Murillo

Bicol, United Kingdom groups promote ‘football for humanity’

Posted on June 15, 2016

THE POWER of sports to bring people together and infuse positive change was once again tapped with the recent tie-up for a football exchange program between Naga City in Bicol and a United Kingdom-based organization.

(L-R) Marc Lloyd Williams, Llandrillo Menai International sports lecturer and football manager; David Webb, Llandrillo program manager and head coach; Richmond Canlas, President, Football Council of Naga (FCN); and Chris Thomas, Director, FCN at the signing of their historical football exchange program. -- Chris Thomas/FCN
The city, through its local football council, and Wales UK-based Llandrillo Menai International formally signed an agreement that gave the go-ahead to the program allowing the partners to send coaches and students to their respective locations for more advanced football education and training as well as do social work for the community.

Both the Football Council of Naga (FCN) and Llandrillo tout the partnership as “two countries, two cultures, two people coming together to transform lives and empower communities through football.”

“This movement is historical and empowers both British and Filipino participants. The Filipinos are given world-class education and training for free; the British instructors gain cultural awareness and insight into the Filipino soul,” said Chris Thomas, FCN football director, as he shared what the program is all about.

Mr. Thomas went on to say that it has the backing of the various community stakeholders, including the city mayor, John Bongat, public schools, nongovernment organizations and community leaders.

The program has a long-term vision of sustaining FCN’s football development program and produce world-class players from the Bicol region that has recently seen a resurgence of the sport.

But apart from the sports component, the groups are also complementing the program with community work activities, partnering with Habitat for Humanity, for instance, to build homes, as they believe that along with the growth of football the communities’ well-being should be part of it as well for them to stay connected in what the program is trying to achieve and get their support.

In the initial phase of the partnership, two British coaches from Llandrillo, namely, Marc Lloyd Williams and David Webb, flew in last month to sign the agreement and give lectures and clinics to children and local teachers in Naga.

The two visiting coaches came away impressed with what they saw and said they could not wait to get the program rolling.

“Well I heard that the Philippines is not so much of a football country as basketball is the no. 1 sport here. But the sport has been picking up and what is being done in Naga should further help that growth,” said Mr. Williams, Lladrillo sports lecturer and football manager, in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“The football council is doing a good job in promoting the sport on the grassroots level, getting the community involved and the different barangays. And the program being tied to community work -- partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the community -- is I think a good approach,” added Mr. Williams, who incidentally is the Welsh Premier League all-time leading scorer with 319 goals in 497 appearances.

The coaches also commended FCN’s construction of a football cage in the town plaza, which was designed by Mr. Thomas, early this year, seeing it as something that would go a long way in promoting grassroots football.

“It’s a unique strategy which carries the core fundamentals that will propel the development of football in Naga, and hopefully, in the entire country,” said Mr. Williams.

“I’ve never seen such structure built in the middle of the city, even in the UK. This is a great achievement for grassroots football in Naga,” added Mr. Webb, Llandrillo program manager and head coach.

“What the Football Council of Naga has done here is finding an inertia. It’s very hard to get things moving. But all it takes is momentum and if the community is involved and interested it will be hard to stop,” said Mr. Webb, who added that they could not wait to tell their colleagues back in the UK of their experience in Naga and send the first batch of lecturers/students from their school here.

“[The program] is a great gift for the city of Naga. We’re giving access to football, especially those who do not have the means. The next Ronaldo could be a little boy, playing in our football cage, and learning the best of British football,” Mr. Thomas said.