Football has yet to shed its image of being a rich kid’s sport in the country, but Allianz Philippines and Sugod Malaya are showing that “the most beautiful sport in the world” is best played in an equal playing field.
It doesn’t matter what your background or social standing is, as long as you are committed and dedicated to playing the game.
“Globally, Allianz is known to be a staunch supporter of football, and we want to promote that same passion here in the Philippines. When Sugod Malaya came to us for help, we immediately saw that they are an organization that represents our goals and ideals for the sport—that it’s not just a game to be played by a few, but by all,” said Gae Martinez, Chief Marketing Officer of Allianz Philippines.
Established six years ago, Sugod Malaya is a nonprofit football club that has close to 300 active members today—from the well-to-do to the poorest of the poor.
“When we started, our dream was to establish a club that is really free, regardless of whatever the player’s background is,” said Mark Duane Angos, Secretary General and one of the founders of Sugod Malaya.
He acknowledged that football in the Philippines suffered the reputation of being a game that is only played in gated communities and Sugod Malaya seeks to change that.
“We were forming a team back then and realized that it lacked diversity. At that time, I was doing a community outreach program for San Beda and got in touch with folks in Tondo,” Angos said.
The club eventually got four kids from the area to play with their team in Bacolod which, along with Iloilo, are considered the “Meccas” of football.
“When they played in Bacolod, they really played well together,” Angos shared.
From the 11 kids they had back then, the club has grown significantly. More than half of its members come from impoverished backgrounds, with 30-40 percent coming from the poorest of the poor.
“At first, we were only relying on the generous donations of our club’s parents until we wanted to expand and solidify the program. In the end, it became more than just a football club; it also became a tool for community development. It is now a club that provides an opportunity for kids from all backgrounds to play and, at the same time, have their talent seen and discovered by the global community,” Angos said.
While they consider their games in Iloilo and Bacolod to be memorable ones, nothing could beat their excitement in playing for international leagues. Sugod Malaya has played in the Borneo Cup in Malaysia and the Singa Cup in Singapore, and has likewise done well in their stints in other Asian countries.
Most recently, Sugod Malaya experienced how it is to play European football when they played in Barcelona, Spain. They played in the Mediterranean Cup and competed against Barcelona FC’s famed La Masia squad, the youth team that produced global football megastars Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.
Angos said they almost gave up the idea of joining while they were in their planning stage.
“We knew, from the perspective of cost, that Barcelona would be too much even though its organizers were nice enough to give us partial subsidy. At some point, we thought of backing out because we felt that participating in one tournament might affect our entire program—we have a team playing in Europe and getting that experience, but then the other scholars would be suffering because we’d run out of funds and resources. So when Allianz and like-minded individuals came in, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” he revealed, adding that they knew of Allianz’ dedication to football.
“When we heard that they were willing to help us, we were excited. We are very thankful and, at the same time, excited to see that we have represented Allianz well,” he pointed out.
Even though the much stronger Barcelona team defeated Sugod Malaya, the kids remain determined.
“You can see that it (playing against Barcelona) reinforced their determination,” Angos said.
In playing in Barcelona, the kids realized how different football is being played in Europe.
“In the Philippines, they would cheer for you when you make a goal. In Spain and the rest of Europe, the crowd will clap and appreciate your good pass, even if you don’t score, and when you make a good save. They can appreciate the strengths of the whole team,” Angos shared.
He added that because of Allianz’ support in getting the kids to play in Spain, many other opportunities for the club came up. They were invited to play in Colombia (a team that they won over during the friendly competition), Ireland, and Portugal, among others.
“The Colombian coach said that our play is unpolished, which is not a bad thing because it makes it unpredictable and exciting,” Angos said, adding that the other clubs have compared their style to that of Manny Pacquiao’s.
In the end, what Mark and the rest of Sugod Malaya wants to achieve for the sport in the country, is to make Filipinos realize that “Football is a sport for the Filipinos.”
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