TOP football official Toni Claveria says seeing a new Paulino Alcantara rise from the Philippines’ grassroots is not impossible.
Claveria, Asia & Oceania project manager of FCBEscola, the football school put up by FC Barcelona, was able to see 12 young Filipino players in the Astro Kem Bola 2016 in Kuala Lumpur and was convinced with a little help the country can produce a football star like Alcantara.
“It’s not impossible, of course,” said Claveria.
“I am sure, why not? At the end of the day, the only thing that we need to do is to provide them experiences, in this case, we provide football training, as long as they are happy and they want to come, we will be supporting, we will try to achieve their dreams by helping them and provide them with most professional training that we can do,” said the Barcelona FC official.
A Filipino-Spanish player born in Iloilo, Alcantara held the Barcelona goals record of 369 goals, made in 357 games, was broken only in 2014 by Argentina’s Messi.
“Yeah, it’s true, since Messi came in, Paulino was the top scorer of the club. The truth is I met the Filipino guys and I am sure that they will do a good job, they feel so excited as we do. We are also excited,” said Claveria.
Claveria noted Alcantara will always be remembered in Barcelona, and Filipinos can draw inspiration from the football legend.
“Paulino was a legend and he has never been forgotten in Barcelona,” Claveria said.
“I think that we are one of the best examples, that physique is not the key or the most important thing in football, we have players Lionel Messi, (Andres) Iniesta all those players are not 6-foot-5 feet, (but) very strong (players),” he said.
“We understand football through teamwork, though the possession of the ball, being smart, taking decisions on the field, that’s what the coaches will teach them, and I am sure that knowing those keys, they will get developed,” he added.
Globe Telecom provided free training to 12 kids aged 10-12 years old thru its TM Football Para sa Bayan program after try-outs in Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao and Manila over the last three months, before sending them to participate in the Malaysia camp.
Now training in Malaysia are Roniel Dalumpines from Basilan, Jared Pena and Ryan Philip Johansson of Manila, Martin Joshua Merino of Binan, Lance Lawrence Locsin of Bacolod and Leoven Gatungay of San Carlos City. The girls group have Astrid Ignacio, Ysabelle Samonte and Stella Maria Divino of Manila, Mikaela Villacin of Bacolod, Davao City’s Jasmine Agustin and Isabelle Renee.
Claveria bared FC Barcelona is also willing to conduct training and advanced skills clinic in the Philippines.
“I hope if the kids of Filipinas, if they want to be professional football players, we can help them and I am sure that we will do the job and at the same time, we will learn from them, because it is an experience for us to be in those countries,” said Claveria.
“The scope is to reach them and try to create a platform of what we do in Barcelona, the idea is to show them the same exercise, the same drills and the same methodology and the same values that we try to do in Barcelona with our kids. I hope that they get it, enjoy it and they feel comfortable with it,” added Claveria.
Alcantara still holds the records of youngest ever Barcelona FC player at 15 years, 4 months and 18 days old, and the youngest to score a goal.
Before making it to the Spanish national team Alcantara led the Philippines to its best ever international football victory, a 15-2 win over powerhouse Japan at the 1917 Far Eastern Championship Games.
[Watch the video of Toni Claveria here]