HUNDREDS of footballers from all over the Philippines and their coaches are gearing up for the Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA) Cup 2019, the fourth and biggest edition of the nationwide tournament dedicated to grassroots players, boys whose ages are 12 years old and below. The NOFA Cup matches will hold from May 29 to June 2 this year, at the Sta. Maria Football Field in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
For more than a decade now, the development of grassroots football has been a major concern of football stakeholders worldwide, ever since the sport’s international governing body, FIFA, advised member associations (MAs) that there can be “no strong National Team without a Grassroots Program.”
The NOFA Cup, as envisioned by NOFA President Mr. Ricky Yanson, is the association’s contribution to uplift the technical skills and knowledge of young Filipino players. Mr. Yanson declares, “We believe that to improve football in the Philippines, grassroots is the long-term solution.”
What makes the NOFA Cup a standout among similar competitions is its 9-a-side format, which prepares participants for the 11-a-side games for older age groups.
The NOFA Cup tournament dates back to when NOFA established the Dynamic Football League to offer quality games to grassroots players based in Negros Occidental. In 2015, NOFA expanded these games by launching their first ever NOFA Cup and inviting teams from other parts of the archipelago.
More than a battle of abilities, the NOFA Cup seeks to create a positive atmosphere where aspiring athletes can thrive. NOFA Cup organizer Mr. Andrew Infante expounds, “I can still remember the reaction of one of the parents whose son joined NOFA Cup for the first time last year. He said, ‘Wala nang registration fee, meron pang subsidy!’”
Aside from not requiring teams to pay a fee in order to join and providing as much as Php 500 financial subsidy per match day to each participant, NOFA also hosts a welcome dinner for all players and team officials on the eve of the opening. “We make sure that they feel and enjoy the Negrense hospitality,” says Mr. Infante.
The combination of competitive tournament and friendly environment has contributed to the growth of NOFA Cup. From only 12 participating teams in 2015, to 18 in 2017 and 2018, there are now 24 teams vying for the coveted NOFA Cup 2019 championship. The tournament is also a venue for scouting potential national players as national coaches are also invited to witness the games. “We are hoping to see the best U13 players in the country play at NOFA Cup. This might give them greater chances of making it to the U14 and U15 national boys team,” Mr. Infante said.
For updates about the NOFA Cup, visit Negros Occidental Football Association on Facebook.