After 89 years since legendary football superstar Paulinho Alcantara retired from FC Barcelona, homegrown Filipino booters will once again step on the popular La Liga team’s pitch but this time for an advanced training and schooling with some of the Spanish club’s most revered coaches and trainers.
The six young Pinoy footballers aged 10-12 who luckily punched a ticket to the 12-day Astro Kem Bola Overseas Training Programme in Barcelona, Spain this month are Lance Lawrence Locsin, Jared Alexander Peña, Ryan Philip Johansson, Astrid Heiress Ignacio, Mikaela Jacqueline Villacin and Jasmine Cassandra Agustin.
The team was the product of a two-month long TM Football Para sa Bayan (TM FPSB) talent search organized by Globe Telecom in July and August. Globe was tapped by Malaysian media and entertainment powerhouse Astro to be its partner in discovering talented young athletes and helping them further harness their craft.
Globe Director for Citizenship Fernando Esguerra expressed elation over the selection of the six players especially after going through tough competition against other footballers from the South East Asian region. The six were among 12 Filipino players who qualified for the Astro Kem Bola Advanced Training Program held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia two months ago which was also participated by 60 players from Malaysia and Singapore.
“We are so happy with the turn-out, to think that this is the first time that Globe has partnered with Astro in this international activity. We are looking forward to being part of the Astro Kem Bola program again in the succeeding years,” Esguerra said. “The TM Football Para sa Bayan is now beginning to turn out quality players after four years of incubation. Hopefully this will be an avenue for furthering the football development in the country. This is just the first step albeit one big, giant step.”
The Philippine players will join 22 children from Malaysia and four from Singapore to train with coaches from FC Barcelona.
Datuk David Michael Yap, Astro Vice President of Community Affairs said: “Astro is committed to championing sports and sportsmanship to aspiring athletes within the region. We continue this commitment through Astro Kem Bola.”
“Nothing is more rewarding than seeing potential turn into reality. In a special way for these young kids, the experience gives them a unique opportunity to really see how far their talent can develop at such an early age. I’m sure they will do us proud,” added Ray Guinoo, TM Portfolio and Brand Head.
TM FPSB technical director and Green Archers United coach Hans Peter Smit was not surprised with the naming of six to Barcelona. “I personally saw the potential of these kids having supervised the program and try-outs in Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao and Muntinlupa a couple of months ago,” said Smit. “This is a chance of a lifetime for these very young players. I wish that these kids will take it all in and savor the experience and use what they will learn to their advantage! What they will learn is a win- win situation not just for them personally but for Philippine youth football.”
The children were selected not only based on talent but also on other criteria such a teamwork; discipline, behavior and sportsmanship; communication on and off the pitch; positive attitude towards teammates, volunteers, and coaches; ability to listen to instructions; and good personality.