FOR one rainy Saturday night, Paolo Bediones savored the renaissance of Philippine football.
When the popular television host/newscaster saw action in the Clear Dream Match in the company of national players, United Football League mainstays, and fellow celebrities, he was glad to see for himself how a sport he had played in childhood grow in popularity to lengths he never thought was possible.
Bediones said he stopped playing the game because he and his teammates found it harder and harder to find playing venues. But his love affair with the sport was rekindled about two years ago, when the Azkals’ phenomenal rise sparked a resurgence for the beautiful game.
“Kaya laking tuwa ko nung pagtanda ko, dumami na 'yung mga lugar na kung saan puwede maglaro at sumikat `yung football," Bediones said. "So I decided na bumalik kahit may edad na.”
Playing with and against professional and amateur football players younger than him, the 38-year-old bachelor also proved, in limited minutes, that he can still play the game.
“I was the oldest in my team,” said Bediones, easily recognizable on the field with his blue-rimmed goggles that matched the colors of his team led by Azkals star Phil Younghusband. “Nakalaro naman ako, nakahawak ng bola, nakatakbo. So very encouraging para sa akin to continue the sport.
“At the same time, it was a dream come true to be teammates with the Azkals, mga players ng UFL, UAAP, tapos kasama pa mga celebrites kaya nakakatuwa talaga. Sana maulit ang ganitong klaseng event.”
Since reconnecting with the game, Bediones has also taken on several roles that enabled him to do his bit in expanding the reach and popularity of the sport.
He has been an adviser of Socceroo FC, one of the most popular teams in the league’s second division and bannered by Brazilian models Daniel Matsunaga and Fabio Ide, who, like Bediones, also saw action in the charity match. The role sees him “trying to keep the team together and talking strategy.”
Bediones is also part of the coaching staff of a women’s team comprised of former University of the Philippines varsity players.
As Socceroo adviser, Bediones pushes for the development of football in the grassroots level with the holding of clinics for kids. But most of all, he wants to promote 'club culture' in the country, knowing it has helped propel the growth and popularity of the sport in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
“As in `yung tinatawag na club culture, hindi pa ganoon ka-sikat sa Pilipinas," said Bediones. "So yun yung gusto naming palakihin talaga."