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Davao City, Philippines

Football project campaigning for peace and positivity to kick off in Davao City

April 06, 2019 - Saturday 9:04 PM by Daniel Joaquin, Romeo Braceros

Article Banner Image Girls play in a five-a-side tournament in the Football for Humanity football cage in Naga City. Photo from Football for Humanity Foundation's Facebook Page

The Philippines is undoubtedly a basketball crazy country. But in recent years, interest in football has increased here as well.

It is this notion that pushed two non-government organizations (NGO) to embark on a noble mission to transform the lives of Filipino children in Davao City through football.

Football for Humanity and Maharlika Sports Development Institute have tied up to develop a number of futsal cages around the city to promote the sport among the city’s youth.

Belle Tiongco, Vice President and Co-Founder of Football for Humanity, believes that now is the time to use football to transform communities and eventually, the whole country into a peace and football loving country; and this should begin with children.

"This is the time for change. We want to harness sports through football and use it to transform the lives of children," Tiongco told reporters at the Kapihan sa PIA press conference on Friday, April 5.

Tiongco revealed that their organization was founded in 2017 with the mission to use football as a tool to promote peace and sports among young children.

She said before officially launching in 2017, the group conducted an initial project in Naga City where they built a 20x30 meter football cage enclosed in metal wire where less fortunate children can learn and play football.

"We started our project in 2016 in Naga City to let the public know that football is for everybody and not only for the elites," she said.

Tiongco said three years since they started the project, a number of the children they trained are now playing in tournaments of higher levels.

Peace through football

Chris Thomas, the president and founder of Football for Humanity revealed playing football is a great way to promote peace and understanding, especially among young children.

Thomas said children who learn how to play football, especially those who are less privileged, will be able to understand the values of camaraderie, friendship, and respect through the sport.

"Children who play football will learn the value of having friends and respecting others," Thomas said.

Thomas also highlighted the role of “football as a tool to change the individual and change society.”

Tiongco added that playing football will help children in the marginalized sector to grow up happy and away from negative ideologies and sexual exploitation.

"Football keeps children away from the dangers of slavery and makes them appreciate their communities more," she said.

She recalled their group training a certain orphanage in Luzon that houses Muslim boys and girls and how football helped the children cope with the problems of the communities from which they came to live happier and more positive lives.

"Playing football has become therapeutic for these children and helped them become children again since most of them are victims of rido," Tiongco said.

Rido is a Muslim tradition where an aggressive party takes revenge on a family with they have conflict.

Five-a-side football

The idea of building relatively smaller football pitches enclosed with walls and metal wires comes from the concept of five-a-side football which allows players to be engaged throughout the whole game.

Thomas said that since there are no out-balls in five-a-side cage football, the momentum of the game just keeps on going.

Players waiting at the sidelines also don’t have to wait very long as players are replaced every time a team scores a goal.

Tiongco added that football stars such as Messi and Ronaldo started playing on the streets and the next international football star could come from the Philippines, but he/she will never be discovered unless they go and reach out to the different communities in the country.

Football dream starts in Davao

Edgar Te, Executive Director of Maharlika Sports Development Institute, revealed the group has partnered with Football for Humanity to promote football in Davao City and eventually in the rest of the country.

Te said their initial project is a football pitch in Tibungco worth approximately P600,000.

He said they hope to teach children the sport of football and hopefully train them to become high-level players in the future.

He added that they will be providing each football cage with four lighting fixtures to allow children to play at night.

"We would also be giving away 10,990 footballs to the children we train for them to love the sport of football," Te said. In addition, Football for Humanity and Maharlika Sports Development Institute are expecting approximately 2,000 additional footballs by the end of April.

Te said their aim is to promote football not only in Tibungco but all 182 barangays in Davao City.

"After Tibungco we will construct the next football pitch in Marahan," Te revealed.

He said after Davao City they hope to duplicate their initiative in other places in the Philippines.

Despite primarily aiming to address the needs of children, Thomas told the media that the football cages they will be building will cater to aspiring athletes of all ages, saying “If he wants to play, let’s play.”

Tiongco, in agreement with Thomas, added “The pitch is for everyone.”