Watching the World Cup games on TV that showed the shocking defeat of soccer superpowers reminds me of the successful Davao Football Association (DFA) program in the 1990s.
The DFA players then were training every afternoon at the old PTA field. Coach Jose “Sensei” Te, team manager Edward “Chaya” Lam and then DFA president Vic Sai were the key figures of that program. Rafael “Popsy” Vilela was then a protégé of coach Te.
As I was observing from the sidelines (usually from the Adolfo Canteen), there I can see young student-athletes honing their skills at the lubak-lubak football field. But that lubak-lubak field turned out to be a big plus factor in the training of the athletes. The degree of difficulty in maneuvering the ball was unmatched by the beautiful and well-maintained turfs in the country, LoL. In fact, when I was asked by fellow reporters at the Davao Press Club in Maguindanao Hotel (yes, ana na kadugay), I just told them that training in that lubak lubak field has produced national champions.
The players were working hard, double time compared to other players in the country at that time, because of that lubak lubak field. Coach Te has religiously reported every afternoon at PTA to supervise the training even until his eyesight has become a little blurry (damn that diabetes), testing his created plays if it is going to work for his current list of players.
Jun Mendez was the regular referee during trainings and who eventually earned a FIFA referee badge in the later years.
Behind the scenes of that training was the difficult task of raising funds for the teams’ competition in the national tournaments. We used to joke that manong Vic Sai would go to the Chaya Bank (not China Bank) and confer with Chaya Lam as to the preparations of the teams.
As everybody knows in the sports community, the DFA has produced national champions under the banners of Danfer Cargo Fowarders, Acer and Columbia Computer Center Football Club.
During the World Cup games, players and coaches would come early in the mornings or so late at night at the home of Chaya so that they can watch the games and learn how the world’s best soccer teams play. At that time, the games were aired via Cable TV. Those were the days.
The presence of a well-oiled management team in the association has produced wonders for Davao football at that time.
That kind of set up has also made FIFA, the world’s governing body for the sport, very successful in organizing the FIFA World Cup.
I am trying to recall the name of that Japanese coach who came to Davao and had a meeting with coach Te, manong Vic and Chaya where he talked about how the Philippine team used to beat the Japan team in double-digit scores until such time that the double-digit score was eventually reduced to a single digit and eventually, the Philippines could no longer beat the Japanese national football team.
Now, Japan has been making big waves, even scoring a 2-1 victory over Germany on November 23 in Qatar.
I dearly miss the conversations of Philippine Football Federation (PFF) secretary-general Christopher Monfort, the able lieutenant of PFF president Atty.Rene Adad, who every time he comes to Davao would share a lot of stories of his football work abroad. As a young sportswriter then, listening to him is like attending the Asian Football Confederation sports administration courses all over again.
I know that the new leadership in the Davao football community under Engineer Henry Sabate, who we fondly call Erap, has been working hard in improving the facilities, using even his personal resources to make sure that once the tournament starts, the field is in tip-top condition. Never lubak lubak. And that is why we laud his leadership.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned in just watching the World Cup games.
We hope that one day, Davao City will again produce many national players again and hopefully, the PFF will be able form a national team that will dominate the SEA Games, even the Asian Games and hopefully get a spot in the World Cup. Hopefully, in our lifetime.
I wonder if the PFF will revive the P-League.
The J-League, the Japan Professional Football League, started 30 years ago and has eventually produced top-caliber players.
Can the PFF do that through P-League?
Of course, it can be done.
Hopefully, in our lifetime, we can see that.
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