Barely two weeks ago, while were waiting for the family of slain Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio at the Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Arakan valley town of North Cotabato, we saw young kids playing football in parched pitch at the back of an elementary school.
The pitch is overlooking from the parish grounds, which is just across the school. So we opted to shoot the game since we were anticipating that the chopper carrying the family would land in the school grounds.
Anyways, the recent success of the Philippine Azklas did not only encourage more kids to play football as well as they also inspired homegrown footballers in the provinces. Like in the remote town of in Arakan, 56 kilometers away from Kidapawan City, young kids play the game with or without proper gears such as the spikes and shin guards.
While we were shooting, some are shouting to some players in the vernacular: “Play well so that you will be discovered by the Azkals!”
But for the love of the game, many of them were playing on bare their barefoot. Some are holding their slippers as they are fighting for the ball in the parched and rugged pitch. Heavy rains may have washed away some portions of the pitch, leaving a shallow canals in the middle of the pitch.
I noticed that one of the players had his spikes on his right foot while on his left foot is just his rubber slippers. Interestingly, he had his sunglasses on. That’s only in Arakan!
On the sidelines, a timekeeper/referee keeps on shouting and reminding the boys if how much time is left in the game. He is not using a stopwatch, instead an analog wristwatch.
Aside from having no net on the goal at all, it is made of bamboo poles.
Football is not actually new to this town because a late friend of mine who is from Arakan, used to tell us stories that young kids are actually starting to play the game.
In the province, the town of M’lang is the known haven of great football players, at least in North Cotabato. One of the prominent players is Peter Jaugan, one of those in the list of the recent call-ups and member of the Philippine Air Force Rider football team.