Naga City football initiative continues to bear fruit

Posted on June 22, 2017

JUST a little over a year since being established, the football initiative set out in Naga City has already claimed a number of “victories,” a testament to how far the coming together of various stakeholders would go a long way in transforming the lives of individuals and their community.

Young kids of Naga City honing their football skills in the “cage” built by the local government and its partners. -- FFH/FCN
Seeing how the sport of football has a lot of promise among its citizens, the first-class city in Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region embarked on a “football journey” early last year, involving the schools, local government and private and nonprofit organizations, with the end game of honing locals, particularly the young ones, to be “champions” in more ways than one.

The strategy was for the Football Council of Naga (FCN) to develop a training program, done with help from the Football for Humanity Foundation (FFH), that will give participants the faculties to lead better lives while also enhancing the city’s football education and furthering the development of grassroots football in the area.

“Naga City has experienced resurgence in football, and this is brought about by the synergy of the schools, the local government, and private, nonprofit groups and initiatives, foremost of which is Football for Humanity,” said Anton Ribano, Asian Football Confederation C-licensed coach of the FCN and FFH.

Proof that Naga City’s football program is making things happen, teams from the city won in tournaments they joined in early this year.

First to claim victory was the boys team from Naga, which bagged the championship trophy at the 1st Cainta Seongnam Futsal Tournament held last February.

While some of the team’s members were new to competing in national tournaments and had “limited” basic football training before the tournament proper, the team was undeterred and fought their way to claiming the title.

The boys’ team was seconded by its female counterpart, which recently won the U15 championship at the 2017 National Youth Futsal Cup competition in May.

Like the boys’ team, some of the female players were still lacking in experience but made up for it with a lot of drive to succeed, which they were rewarded for after beating the Tuloy sa Don Bosco team via penalties in an exciting finals match.

With the little successes that the program they helped built has been building, FFH could not be more proud and it has only solidified its commitment to advancing what they have started with the people of Naga City.

“Our methodology works, as we had promised. We told the local government officials, the Department of Education officials, the teachers, the parents, and other partners, that we will create champions and world-class players from among the children of Naga. We may not have a long tradition or the best equipment but we have given them a lot of ‘heart.’ They have that hunger to be better, and they believe in the program,” Chris Thomas, volunteer football development officer of the FCN and FFH founder, shared to BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

Mr. Thomas and FCN further said central to their program is the establishment of a football cage, fondly referred to as the “cage,” which is an enclosed 15 x 25 structure where 4x4 plays are a regular part of training.

Set up by the local government in the LCC Mall parking lot in Sabang, Naga City, school children, street children, and adults play regularly in the cage.

In the cage plays, all members of the team get to handle the ball, and are taught to think and get into position at lightning speed, which paid dividends when the city’s teams competed in the futsal courts of Manila.

Mr. Thomas went on to say that they are just starting and that more initiatives are afoot to be implemented by their group along with the FCN as well as other stakeholders.

These include incorporating dancing, particularly hip-hop which is already under way, in their training program as well as another way to encourage more people to join the football teams and games; the setting-up of a football academy; the building of an “upgraded” cage; and the international volunteer program involving advanced football education and training as well as social work for the community.

“We at FFH feel really blessed to have been able to see our vision come true in Naga City. It’s really all about the children, whose dreams we want to fulfill,” Mr. Thomas said while expressing hope that such tack can also be adopted in other places in the country. -- Michael Angelo S. Murillo