Wednesday, June 30, 2010
While waiting with other members of the diplomatic corps to glad-hand with the visiting President of Iraq and the President of Yemen, some ambassadors started a discussion about the ongoing World Cup. While they were discussing England's all-around pathetic showing, the African teams' misfortunes during the group stages, and who they're betting on to win all the marbles, all I could do was smile and nod.
But the 2010 World Cup seemed to give me hope, though, that maybe it's not too late for the Philippines to hop in on the bandwagon. Don't get me wrong, I still want basketball to be the king of sports in the Philippines. I wouldn't want it any other way. But we can always teach our society to welcome a "new" game.
So what gave me hope? The showing of the US national football team. The past decade has shown that a country where football is a bit player in its sports realm has managed to produce a competitive team. For a country whose idea of football is a sport with pigskins, helmets, and shoulder pads, their soccer players have managed to upstage even European football powerhouses like Italy, England, and France.
But how can football be introduced to Philippine society? I thought about it while listening to all the diplomatic football chatter and I came up with an idea. Yes, I was that bored from all the waiting and footie chatter that I actually managed to come up with a plan.
The answer is that football must first be introduced in the streets through pop culture. Trying to have the government get Filipinos interested in football would be disastrous. Any plan will just be bogged down by politicking and bureaucratic red tape. And making schools give focus on football will just make students disinterested in it all the more. Filipinos easily take in new concepts when they feel they picked it up on their own. The best thing government can do is just to make it look like Filipinos did.
And when I say utilizing pop culture, I mean resorting to using even the most mindless, crass, and vulgar ideas. (If you wish to throw in the word jologs there, please feel free to do so.) In other words, we need to let the two big TV networks and corporate advertisers do what they have been doing all these years. Only this time, with a focus on the introduction of football.
How can this be done?
Da Pinoy, meet Putbol.
1) Have a football contest in Eat Bulaga!- This is the gateway to the common man's attention.
However, let me point out that I don't consider EB mindless entertainment that corrupts people's thinking. It's just like "Seinfeld," a show where nothing happens, only it's a noontime variety show, way, way funnier, and with hot scantily-clad women shaking their booties. (I'm a fan. I'm biased. It's the only Philippine show I miss watching. TVJ rules!)
Its noontime competition, on the other hand, just plain sucks. Though it has mastered a form of mind-conditioning that would make totalitarian states envious.
Going back to EB, remember the time they had a segment called "PBA" or "Philippine Bulaga Association," with (very, very) amateur players getting their 15 minutes of fame? This can be done for football. With 10 to 15 minute mini-games daily, played in a small area, and dosed with humorous mock commentary, this segment can plant the seed of thought that anybody can play football. One doesn't need to be enrolled in an exclusive school to be able to play footie. Imagine teams like Divisoria FC and Tondo FC playing in Eat Bulaga!
2) Make a primetime teleserye starring Kimerald that focuses on football- The bubblegum pop love team of "Kimerald" (ugh) seems to have a heavy influence on a great number of the youth. Have you ever heard of the "Colbert bump" phenomenon? Apparently, in the Philippines, there's a "Kimerald bump." Don't believe? Ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You read that right, the AFP, who must have wondered why so many people wanted to join the military all of a sudden. If ever we find ourselves in a war, we now know what to use as a recruitment tool.
Just make a hack TV writer come up with a schmaltzy story that can be understood by any idiot and offend Literature majors. Poor boy Gerald loves cheerleader Kim who is in a relationship with rich football team captain. Poor boy joins football team to gain cheerleader's love and... Ahhh, bulls**t! Pare-pareho lang naman ang mga p**anginang istorya ng mga teleserye na 'yan. (I can't believe I wrote something about Kimerald. Me and my crazy ideas...)
3) Promote football attires as a fashion fad- Have pretty boys like Sam Milby and John Lloyd Cruz (or whoever girls go crazy over now) appear on TV wearing Manchester United or Chelsea shirts. Girlfriends will then make their victims... I mean boyfriends, wear them (whether they like it or not). Which means more publicity.
Hey, if swapping that Boston Celtics shirt for a Real Madrid one for a weekend date means getting some hot monkey love, I believe men can be accommodating.
(Geez, first love teams, then pretty boys. My blood is curdling.)
4) Make a dance move featuring football-like steps- Ocho-ocho. Ispageti. The f'ing Macarena. Filipinos seem to easily latch on to the latest dance moves. An American Ambassador actually knew that she would connect to the Pinoy masses by simply doing the "Papaya" dance routine on TV. Again, you read right. (Go ahead. Look it up in YouTube. ... Done? Okay. Moving on...)
Through this dance number, Filipinos with really good footwork can realize they can be diplomats one day. And football players, too.
5) Air Philippine foootball games on TV- If the previous ideas actually work and football gets even any form of attention from the Pinoys, it's time to air local football games. The sports channels on cable can air the Premier League or Serie A if they want, but broadcast TV can contribute to popularizing football by showing the UAAP and NCAA football tournaments and, if we have any, a national football tournament. If people are actually interested, they will catch the games even if it's NBN-4 airing it at midnight.
6) Ban football- Okay, not exactly. But stay with me here.
If the sport becomes popular enough, Pinoys will be playing it in the streets using makeshift equipment made up of whatever materials are available. A lot of the superstars in the PBA may have started playing in the inter-chinelas of their kalye, almost killing themselves for a win, with ice tubig as price.
Under the pretext of protecting citizens from getting injured playing in the streets and to stop games that block traffic, local governments can pass ordinances prohibiting the playing of football in the streets. A reminder from the Department of Health would help a lot. Right, firecracker users?
Filipinos, especially the youth, will see this as an opportunity to rebel against authority and will do everything they can to find ways of playing, including guerilla-style tactics of being able to set up shop at a moment's notice when nobody is looking. The others who didn't play before will join in just because it looks cool.
7) Let politicians get their publicity by building football fields- We now have to rely on the politicians' behavior of trying to woo voter support by any means. If they can win the people's support by spending their budget on a football field, they will. Chances are, they already built several basketball courts the last time they ran for public office. Para maiba naman.
8) Let the market take over- Once the interest of Filipinos in football has been sparked, there will be a new consumer market. Mabilis pa sa alas kuwatro, the major corporations will scramble to be the first one to tap into this new market. This will involve supporting the spread of the game, which leads to an even bigger market. But more importantly, this eventually leads to more avenues to improve the state of Philippine football.
The government can't teach Filipinos to like football. It doesn't have the people, the budget, or the time to undertake such a massive culture-shifting effort. But the major corporations can. They can pour in billions doing so if there is significant return of investments. They can even create a football league that can serve as a training ground where Filipino players can hone their skills for international play. We may have a San Miguel FC vs. Alaska FC being watched on primetime TV. Let's just worry about national team players being takot ma-injure, ala PBA players, when that happens.
The ideas I put forward were written in a humorous fashion, but I hope the gist got through somehow. The end goal of all this is to first blur, and then obliterate, the line between football as pop culture (where football interest can begin) and football as a legitimate sport and national pastime. Then we can truly say that football has been introduced into our society.
Maybe the time will come when the boys from the exclusive schools playing in their well-maintained football fields have as much love for the sport as the boys living in squatters' areas playing in potholed streets. Only when such kind of social divide is bridged by football can it be introduced as a national game and find a permanent place in the Filipinos' hearts.