They saw children playing barefoot with plastic containers as their soccer balls. This scene touched the hearts of Clyde, 14, and Chyle, 10, both trainees of the Philippine Army Football Club whose players are also mainstays of the Philippine national men’s football team.
Sympathetic with the plight of children who loved football but could hardly afford its gear, the duo volunteered to fly to Central Mindanao where their father was born and raised to share the knowledge they gained as varsity players of Colegio San Agustin – Makati and trainees of the Philippine Army Football Club.
With the help of people who have never set foot in Central Mindanao and Southern Christian College (SCC) alumni and friends, “Futbol Para sa Kapayapaan” (Football for Peace) grew into something big as the Philippine Army, through Colonel Gener del Rosario of the Special Service Unit, sent the two Army soldier-athletes, Sergeant Roel Gener and Corporal Eduard Sacapano.
The two soldier-athletes have carved their names in Philippine football history as members of the famous Azkals and the Philippine Army Football Team competing in the United Football League (UFL).
“Our father, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Corpuz Sagun, always told us to give more than what we can give. We were told to help our fellow tri-people children by teaching football and the values of sportsmanship. We may not follow his footsteps as a soldier but we can pursue lasting peace through sports,” Clyde said.
Two other soldier-athletes and Azkals mainstays, Chieffy Caligdong of the Philippine Air Force and Nestorio Margarse of the Philippine Army, volunteered but limited funds and other commitments prevented them from joining the Cotabato leg.
“Hopefully, we could do the football clinic nationwide,” Sagun added.
Azkals goalkeeper Sacapano (Number 22) and defender Gener (Number 6), who as kids learned to play soccer barefoot, led volunteers from all walks of life during the “Futbol Para sa Kapayapaan” football clinic on May 28 and 29 at Southern Christian College in Midsayap, Cotabato Province. A number of doctors, nurses, teachers, drivers, farmers and soldiers took time out from their busy schedule to join the volunteer football trainers and volunteers. Others prepared food and water for everyone to partake.
“This is a great opportunity for soldiers to teach sports to children for them to develop the culture of peace,” Lieutenant Colonel Roy Galido said.
Galido, the 40th Infantry Battalion commander and co-sponsor of the project, believes that peace-building efforts should not only be done on the battlefield.
Aside from the football clinic, the kids will have a lesson on “Building a Culture of Peace”.
“We will inculcate the culture of peace in the young minds of these children through sports. This is a way of building a culture of peace in this part of the country,” said Dr. Elma Neyra, the SCC VP for Community Education, Research and Extension Administration (CEREA).
The two-day football clinic for the tri-people of Central Mindanao benefited Manobo, Bangsamoro (Muslim) and Christian children aged 3 to 13 years old of Midsayap and its adjoining municipalities. Through the social media, the outpouring of support was inspiring.
The “Just Give It Project” gave several pairs of soccer shoes and socks to the Midsayap football clinic. It collects used football shoes, gear, and donations and distributes it to football clubs around the Philippines so that less fortunate kids can play football with decent shoes. A Filipino community in the United Kingdom led by former defense reporter James Mananghaya is also collecting football shoes and gear for the kids. Cebu’s Nimrod Quinones of The Freeman has sent soccer balls. The Asia America Initiative, JCI-Manila and Regional Emergency Assistance Communication Team (REACT) NCR gave soccer balls, shorts and shirts.
On the historic day that some members of the Azkals visited Midsayap, the Midsayap United Football Club was conceived. One of its objectives is to achieve peace where war and peace talks failed.
No registration fee was collected from the participants. Sponsors of the clinic include SCC CEREA, 40IB, 6th Infantry Division, Asia America Initiative, JCI-Manila, Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, San Miguel Corporation, Magnolia, Purefoods, REACT NCR, REACT Midland, Crystal Clear Water Store, LGU Midsayap, PRO 11 and Hill Park Inn and Restaurant.
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