Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shamed yet Proud

I just came from a design meeting in one of the projects that I handled and i met one of the consultants which is a Spanish national. He came from Barcelona, and indeed a very passionate football-crazy fan, and was a player in the amateur league himself before his college days.

I was excited to talk to Enrique (he told me to call him "Rico") about football. He noticed that my accent is quite different and asked if I am Singaporean.

"No", I retorted. "I'm a permanent resident here but I am a Filipino".

"You're Filipino?" He asked, in a rather excited tone. "Then you know Paulino Alcantara?"

I thought he was referring to a colleague or another Filipino designer whom he met here in Singapore. So after I shook my head, I asked him: "Which firm does he worked for?"

He laughed. The kind of laugh you do when you think someone has just told a joke. Then after he realized that I was serious with my reply.

So he told me a story. It is about a teenage boy in the 1920's . This guy played for Barcelona FC (currently the European champions and Spanish Primera Liga title holders where 2-time World Footballer of the year Ronaldinho plays) and was the youngest ever to score a goal for the Catalan club at age 15. He went on to become the greatest ever goalscorer for Barcelona, hauling incredible total of 356 goals in 357 appearances for the club. That's almost a goal(around .9972) per game. Even Pele' or Ronaldo didn't achieve that feat. No footballer EVER did... but him.

His name is PAULINO ALCANTARA. And he was a Filipino.

I laughed. I thought Rico was joking. But when I came back here in office and researched about the guy in the internet, my skin hair shivered. I almost cried. Because every word that Rico told me was true. The greatest player ever to wear the greatest football jersey in the world is a Filipino!(An Ilonggo. No wonder most players on the Philippine National Football team nowadays are Ilonggos).

Not only that, he was the first ASIAN to play for a European club. After some years of successfully palying for Barcelona and winning trophies, he returned to Manila to help the Philippines thrash Japan to a humiliating 15-2 score to win the FAR EASTERN CHAMPIONSHIPS in Tokyo. (And I thought we have never beaten Japan in football before!).

I'm ashamed that it took a Spaniard to tell me before I know of this amazing Filipino. But I am proud. now more than ever, to have football as a favourite sport. At least now I won't just look at a Brazilian or a french as my footballing hero. Now I have someone with the same nationality that I can identify my passion with...

If you know this guy before I do, I salute you. But if you don't, spread the word. This guy deserves more in the Philippine sports history than what he is getting. His story can and will inspire younger footballers... I kid you not.

If you want to know and read more about this Filipino, you can go HERE.