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Dreaming Futbol United provides a bright future for Filipino kids who are passionate about playing football

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By Terence Repelente

Video by Jan Louie Inocentes and David Clarence Rivera

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

  • THE WINNING MENTALITY From left: Dreaming Futbol United aims to produce internationally-competitive Filipino football players by training them at a young age

  • THE WINNING MENTALITY From left: Dreaming Futbol United aims to produce internationally-competitive Filipino football players by training them at a young age; and Cruzeiro EC representatives Fred Bragaglia and Jonathas Candido visit the Philippines to integrate with DFU’s system

  • THE WINNING MENTALITY From left: Dreaming Futbol United aims to produce internationally-competitive Filipino football players by training them at a young age; and Cruzeiro EC representatives Fred Bragaglia and Jonathas Candido visit the Philippines to integrate with DFU’s system

  • THE WINNING MENTALITY From left: Dreaming Futbol United aims to produce internationally-competitive Filipino football players by training them at a young age; and Cruzeiro EC representatives Fred Bragaglia and Jonathas Candido visit the Philippines to integrate with DFU’s system

  • DREAMING FOOTBALL From left: The passionate football players of DFU at the PINAS CUP U12

  • One of the founders of DFU Richard Joson; and DFU head coach Eliezer Fabroada


Football, unlike other sports such as basketball or volleyball, doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the Philippines. While there is certainly no lack of love for the sport, it craves the development and recognition it needs to flourish in the country. For Richard Joson, one of the founders of Dreaming Futbol United (DFU), what we need to do is to improve and create a countrywide program, which addresses the country’s grassroots. That is why he founded DFU.

THE UNDYING LOVE FOR FOOTBALL

“It’s time to give back.” These were the words that floated inside the heads of Richard and his best friend Manny Concio when they thought of creating a football program that would help kids follow their dreams. They believe it all stemmed from their undying love for the sport. “Because football has been a huge part of us growing up and we wanted to be able to share that,” said Richard.

Richard recalled how, back in the day, it was so frustratingly difficult to get your chance to play, compete, and create something for your future built around football. “DFU was founded on that hope and that dream to provide a future for kids who really want to play football,” he said. “When we were growing up, after college, football had to stop because there’s no future unlike basketball or other sports. That’s what we want to provide.”

The primary dream of DFU after it was founded was to be competitive in the ASEAN football stage. They believe that the only chance for a Filipino born in the Philippines to make it to the senior national team (which is composed mostly of half-Filipinos and half-foreign nationals) is to improve the grassroots program. It is necessary to develop the players at a young age.

“We want to give kids the chance to one, enjoy football, two, learn the life lessons that are given by football, and three, to be able to get a better future through education via football. This is not just for the players here in Manila but also for players in the provinces,” Richard said.

DFU scouted players from all over the country. It has encountered several potential players from different provinces. This is where it found unprivileged children who possess the passion for the game but do not have the financial capacity to play it to the next level. From there, DFU started to give scholarships and 60-day, live-in summer camps at no cost.

“We played a lot in the provinces back in the ’70s and ’80s and we saw a lot of really good players. A few got the chance to show their talent in Manila and abroad but not enough and not a lot. No one could really progress beyond that. It’s really ‘professional play’ that we want them to achieve,” Richard said.

“Right now, we have scholars from Baguio, Iloilo, Palawan, Laguna, San Carlos, Negros, and much more. We hold summer camps for them and this is where we see the talent and see how far they can progress.”

The DFU players are sent to different international tournaments to give them the exposure they need. They are also sent for try-outs for international football scholarships. Most of the kids are sent for free. A couple of them, who belong to well-to-do families, shoulder their own expenses.  Some of the paying families even subsidize the cost of the scholars. Dreaming Futbol United isn’t just a sports program, it’s a family built around the love for football.

To observe the development of its players and as a test of its program’s effectivity, DFU has been participating in the Borneo Cup in Malaysia for four years. This year, 2017, the U11 (born 2006) team won in Borneo Cup.  The U12 (born 2005) placed 2nd.

GONE GLOBAL

What’s next for DFU?  Cruzeiro EC of Brazil has agreed to help DFU achieve its objectives.  Looking at DFU’s playing style, infrastructure, and talent, Cruzeiro EC has agreed to develop a program to elevate the level of DFU’s program. “We’re bringing our program to the next level by partnering with Cruzeiro,” Richard said.

As a football mom to two young children and a passionate advocate of DFU, Mavie Castrillo Escalona shared why football is a wonderful sport and why organizations like DFU should be supported.

“I spend all my weekends on the fields and see how wonderful soccer is as a sport. The kids are taught many valuable lessons, especially team work and perseverance. It’s a good source of a healthy body and a healthy mind, two components that children will have to learn outside of school,” Mavie said.

She also stressed on the big opportunity to play football abroad, especially in the US where she is currently based. “Many corporate sponsors build stadiums and form academies that allow the sport to flourish in every town. There’s a whole organization that exists here in the US for that. Watching the kids scrimmage at night with the beaming field lights shining upon them painted a whole canvas for me of what to do in the Philippines. Every time I see this perfection I am reminded of how much I need to bring back to the Filipino children.”

According to Mavie, this is how DFU was conceived. “The inspiration of what can become of the many talented children who cannot afford to play football has pushed me to partner with my dear friend in Manila, Jopet Mercado-Concio, whose passion for helping and putting plans into action provides me a clear direction of how I can create a conduit for those dreams to play football in the Philippines can come true.”

NO FIELD, NO PROBLEM

Coach Eliezer Fabroada, known to his players as Coach “Aeyh,” said helping children achieve their goals through football feels like winning a championship.  “Napakasaya para sa akin tumulong kasi I’m a football player (As a football player myself, it feels very good to be able to help). Lalo na kapag nakikita ko yung mga bata from the provinces develop (Especially if I witness the kids from the provinces develop).”

As the head coach of DFU, coach Aeyh is tasked to make sure all the players are given ample opportunity to unleash their full potential and to improve both their individual and collective skills and capabilities. Of course, he ensures the overall development of the entire program. That is why in their partnership with Cruzeiro EC, Coach Aeyh is set to leave the country. “I’m going to Brazil to study their program directly. I will stay there for three months to embrace their program,” he said.

According to Coach Aeyh, Cruzeiro likes DFU’s program because it is truly developmental. “We assess players. We tell each player the truth about their weaknesses and strengths. We tell them exactly where they need to improve. Cruzeiro saw how we develop players and that’s mainly the reason we are tying up,” he said. After his visit to Brazil, according to Coach Aeyeh, they will conduct a program that is truly Cruzeiro in the Philippines. And in the future, they will continuously send coaches and players to Brazil for development.

Coach Aeyh also recognized what a lot of people say about the country’s football problem—fields to play in. “The field is the main playing area of football but, for me, it is not a problem. Tying up with Cruzeiro, we saw that it isn’t really a problem. In fact, it’s another reason we are compatible with the Cruzeiro’s program,” he said “Because in Brazil, they utilize what they have. They use the streets, the basketball courts. They focus more on the players’ skills rather than where they play.”

Coach Aeyh has proven this in his own province in Pagsanjan. “Realistically, we don’t have fields but we have a lot of basketball courts, we have streets,” he said. “One barangay, which is the barangay where I’m from in Pagsanjan, has a lot of kids who love to play football. But when our coach left for the states, football also disappeared. So when I graduated college, I tried to build one pair of goalposts and left it in a basketball court with a ball.”

Coach Aeyh was both astonished and glad at what he saw after a week. “All the kids were suddenly playing football. They had no coach and no one told them to play, but they still played,” he said. “Makikita mo na hindi reason yung walang field (You will see that the lack of a playing field isn’t a reason). As long as we have goalposts and a ball they can use empty courts or streets to play.”

THE PARTNERSHIP WITH CRUZEIRO

With the program Cruzeiro runs and with the great players it has developed through the years, its partnership with DFU will provide Philippine coaches (like Coach Aeyh) an idea of how it’s done in Brazil. They will learn the technicalities on how to run programs like Cruzeiro’s, which should result to better Filipino football players, and overall, develop the entire nation in terms of football. DFU’s vision is to hold training camps here and abroad, with Brazilian and local coaches. The vision can be achieved slowly, conquering one age group at a time. Until DFU players can represent the country in national teams where they can bring with them the learning from the DFU program and,  with hope, compete for their country, with greater and better skills and knowledge of the game.  Dreaming Futbol United is determined to change Philippine football, as positively as possible, in its own little way.

 

support@dreamingfutbol.org; www.dreamingfutbol.org

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