Whenever I hear or read condescending comments about how some of our footballers are not full-blooded Filipinos, I simply ignore them. I don’t let the comments get to me. Why make a religion out of discrimination? Then I read “We All Breed Red: Time to Get Rid of the Fil-What Nonsense” by Moira Gallaga and I loved the way she tackled the topic and how she found the time to enlighten those people constantly bothered by this endless issue about the players’ ethnicities. Thank you very much, Moira! If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to take it all in when you do.
A day or two after that, I saw the same kinds of comments again, seemingly unending in their bitterness. Some people find delight in making an issue out of this, no matter how trivial.
I even got an email from a foreigner who’s planning to move here, probably as a reaction to my recent articles. While he found the articles quite entertaining, he assumed that what I was doing was a smart and strategic way of marketing the foreign-born players. He even asked me if there will be articles featuring full-blooded Filipino Azkals in the future. He explained that the “key factor concerning the football craze in the Philippines is if a full-blooded Filipino can make it abroad so Filipinos have someone they can relate to.” He didn’t expound on this, but he was probably implying that Philippine football needs its own Manny Pacquiao. Maybe—but!
If he was somehow under the impression that our foreign-based players are not exactly Filipino and entirely different from the likes of Chieffy Caligdong, then imagine the others. Is it really difficult to grasp the fact that they are all one hundred percent Filipino in our eyes? I thought of ignoring his sentiments, but because it was coming from a foreigner, I felt compelled to share my thoughts to him and I might as well put them here on my blog.
Yes, of course, there will be articles featuring our full-blooded Filipino footballers soon. I actually interview the players who are available and ready to collaborate with me. And just to avoid any misunderstanding down the road, ethnicity is not and will never be a criterion in the selection process. FYI, the players are my colleagues, so I work hand-in-hand with the featured player when I write the article. Moreover, I may call them Filipino–Spanish, Filipino–Italian, Filipino–Iranian, etc. but that’s because I’m discussing their background and not for any other reason.
To be honest, I don’t believe in the “half-Filipino or full-blooded Filipino” concept; it is, indeed, something perpetuated by the media and haters. Just because one of their parents is not a Filipino doesn’t make them less Filipino. Some of them even act and think like a true Filipino compared to some of us because they chose to be here and join us. We don’t discriminate and that’s what we are trying to teach everyone. We don’t label the players based on their ethnicity. This sounds arbitrary, but I don’t think there’s room for ideologies in football.
We refuse to comment on these things because, in reality, there’s nothing to discuss. Some players may speak a different language or come from a different culture but football gives them a sense of community. Forget culture shock; playing for the Philippines has helped them make a place for themselves here. Whenever they come here, they leave all their family and friends behind, but they also need somewhere to belong to right here in their second home and they choose football. Shouldn’t we be admiring them instead of judging them?
They’re entering an entirely new world, a world whose rules aren’t clear to them (yet), but they courageously accept the risks and challenges involved. I guess the same insight applies to some of the Azkals joining the UFL: Somehow they feel the need to belong here and so they attach themselves to one of our clubs.
In my humble opinion, we even owe these foreign-based players because if it weren’t for them, football wouldn’t have regained its rightful place in Philippine sports. I’m sure our young players will make it abroad in the future. Baby steps in the right direction, with the right people, will do it.
The foreigner’s reply:
Ok no problem thanks for clarifying the foreign born players issue. I always wanted to know what people involved with the azkals thought about bringing in foreign born players. It’s interesting to me because I’ve never seen a national team with so many foreign born players. Like how I say, ‘it’s not about where you were born but what’s in your heart’ and the fact that these players live and play in the Philippines now shows they’re true Filipinos at heart. Yes imagine what state the azkals would be in if these players weren’t there? Football would be virtually nonexistent and not have the buzz it has today, not to mention the team would be substantially worse! But yeah these players look committed to the Philippines and azkals and even Germany and most national teams have ‘half breed’ players, like German Turks such as ozil and khedira. But those guys were born in/ moved at a young age to Germany so they are immersed and fully apart of German culture compare to these azkal players who come from completely different cultures growing up, which I found interesting.
He’s right: “It’s not about where you were born but what’s in your heart.” In the end, we can only try to shape others’ opinions. I don’t mind for as long as you remain open-minded. If you ask me again about my thoughts, don’t be offended if I don’t respond. I just think the whole Fil–what nonsense is kind of getting old.