The Younghusbands have a football academy and, now, fellow Philippine Azkal Neil Etheridge has his goalkeeping school.
These ventures, no doubt, will go a long way in promoting football but not among its supposed targets—ordinary boys and girls, Filipinos, who really love the beautiful game but who may have not even been able to watch a football match in their lives for lack of money to buy a ticket.
We have no quarrel with the noble and lofty mission of the academy and the school, for they seem to us as Phil and James and Neil’s way of paying back what the game had given them from the time they were foreign club players to that when they began donning the Philippine colors as proud Azkals.
But, Etheridge’s goalkeeping school, in particular, will conduct courses at the Manila Polo Club, playground of the ultra rich and the overly famous in the country.
Aling Pacing or Mamang Paeng, definitely, are not welcome there, a heaven on earth, if you get my middle-class drift.
Now, Neil, a Filipino-British net minder, will teach kids on blocking penalties, heading off shots, watching out for handballs, etc.
These young people, presumably, will come from exclusive gated villages, living in ten-room houses-cum-mansions, served by yaya from dawn to dusk.
Yes, Virginia, it is highly improbable that the likes of Jekjek or Lenlen would be allowed to enter the Manila Polo Club, even if they happen to carry passports and a football the size of the biggest bilao containing the pansit for 30 hungry officemates.
Maybe, not even a recommendation from a bishop will open the door for the poor kid with Neymar on his mind.
If the courses at the Etheridge goalkeeping school are more thoughtfully held at a neutral place—where Tagalog, English and Bisaya are spoken, where the burgis from Forbes Park mix with the masa from Payatas—then Neil is in the business of teaching youngsters how to mind the net as he has done admirably for more than five years that he has been a Philippine Azkal.
Some course takers at the school probably will be serious about stopping balls from hitting the back of the net but some will also probably be more concerned with beefing up their resumes before they enter an exclusive boarding school in London or an equally exclusive high school in Vermont.
Meanwhile, Jekjek or Lenlen are already thinking if their parents would be able to send them to high school.
Athletic scholarships, in general, have paid tuition and other fees of the wide-eyed probinsyano or probinsyana.
The saving grace of Neil Etheridge’s goalkeeping school will be the giving the hard-up and the marginalized a chance to shine in any football field through scholarships.
And courses (fee: P9,000) do not have to be conducted at a ritzy club whose members have no idea that for the masses, getting a driver’s license means having to line up for hours and getting a passport also means having to make pila under the scorching sun to prove that you are not one of the bad guys.
Still, good luck to your net minding school, Neil, even if it pains us to say so.