With the goal of using football as a medium for change, the Gawad Kalinga (GK) SipaG grassroots football program has been in the forefront of providing training to the less-fortunate youth in their marginalized communities.
After 10 years since its conception in 2005, the program still continues to cultivate the sport and its culture among their people through its volunteers and sponsors.
Despite space constrictions in their local GK communities, the grassroots football initiative was not halted from spreading the love for the sport.
The program started using street football or futsal to teach the sport to underprivileged kids as it requires less space and can be played in small basketball courts and other open areas.
According to program director Michael Kevin Goco, from 20 participants in just one site, SipaG has now spread into 15 locations all over the country with over 750 active young participants.
He added that communities where they operate their program have now adopted the culture of embracing the sport.
“Most areas running it really have a culture of football in their communities and it’s doing its small part in terms of development,” Goco said in an interview with The Manila Times.
“They [communities]supply most of the players to district meet teams for public schools and even internationally GK sent 5 players to Roy Moore’s Street Child World Cup team,” he stated.
Goco stressed that they now work with different government and non-government organizations to maintain the use of football to develop and instill values among the youth from the marginalized sectors of society.
“Using the GK community as a platform of convergence for grassroots sport development, each area running the SipaG program works with local barangay officials, public schools, and like minded organizations in promoting the sport as a tool for youth development and empowerment.”
He declared that the programs, which usually uses basketball courts and other available open areas to play the sport in the absence of fields, is now headed by the initial batch of kids they worked with.
“Our program is also led by the youth from GK communities – children not older than 25 years old are the referees, coaches, and tournament organizers.”
Aside from this, Goco also mentioned that their received help from Henry V. Moran Foundation’s Danny Moran, Ed Formoso and from Azkals under-23 head coach Marlon Maro during the juvenile years of SipaG.
Meanwhile, GK SipaG’s program director explained that one of the main reasons they had for establishing a football program in the predominantly basketball-crazy slums of Metro Manila was to popularize the sport and use it as an instrument for development.
“Back in 2005, we did not have yet the Azkals phenomenon so football was hardly in country’s consciousness, especially among the poor, so we wanted to popularize it among the masses using GK, which is present in thousands of low-income communities nationwide.”
He also maintained that he believes that it is an ideal sport for the less fortunate, as it can be gender neutral in the setting in their communities as kids can engage in games with both sexes and it is also height neutral.
With the success of their program, SipaG has now produced players that already play for collegiate teams and even represented the country in the youth-level.
“We have kids playing for UP Diliman Women’s team, Philippine Women’s University, College of St. Benilde, San Beda High School-Rizal, and FEU- Fern. One even represented the country in the U19 AFF competition held a few years ago in Jakarta, Indonesia.”
“We hope in time we could have a graduate of the program playing in the UFL or on the Azkals,” he added.
Lastly, Goco invited individuals who are also passionate about cultivating football and helping the less fortunate to join their programs.
“We need volunteer coaches, referees, teachers. Basically, anyone who is interested in the sport and with kids. They do not necessarily have to be well versed in football, but just need to be good mentors and role models to these kids,” he concluded.