The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) joined 40 other Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Member Associations (MAs) in celebration of the AFC Grassroots Day through an online webinar last Saturday, 15 May 2021.
The AFC Grassroots Day is a key event across Asia in recognizing the efforts of the MAs in promoting grassroots football in their respective areas. It is also in line with the AFC’s Vision and Mission to further develop grassroots football as it seeks to ensure that football remains one of the most popular sports in the continent.
Over 100 participants from Gawad Kalinga attended the AFC Grassroots Day celebration. In addition, PFF also encouraged its Regional Football Associations and Youth National Teams to conduct their own activities in celebration of the AFC Grassroots Day through an online skills competition.
“Grassroots football shows that each and everyone deserves the right to play football,” said PFF Grassroots Officer David Javellana. “A strong grassroots is key for the youth to succeed and we have seen that with our celebration of the AFC Grassroots Day as we continue to promote the sport in our respective areas.”
The webinar consisted of a presentation on the PFF Child Safeguarding programme followed by two panel sessions. The first panel session saw the three AFC Youth Social Responsibility Ambassadors in Cian Galsim, Rae Tolentino, and Mikaella Villacin discuss how grassroots and football can affect positive change in their communities.
“We are focusing on grassroots for our projects in our communities,” said Galsim. “Our role is to make an impact in our respective communities and to share our knowledge in football and how to use sports as an equipment to help the development of communities.”
The second panel session was a discussion with current and former national team players on why they love football and how it allowed them to excel at the highest level. The panel consisted of Men’s National Team player Iain Ramsay, former Women’s National Team and current Philippine U16 Girls National Team head coach Marielle Benitez-Javellana, and former Men’s National Team legend Chieffy Caligdong.
“My father brought the passion in football into me and having started playing football at a young age and have always loved the game,” said Ramsay. “Seeing a football-inclined community (having lived in Australia) drove my love into playing football.”
“It was all about having fun with friends and the skills the opportunities just followed because I enjoyed playing football,” added Benitez-Javellana. “It was a proper excuse for us to go out to play outdoors and when football was offered we tried it out and fell in love with the sport.”
“I came from a football playing family in Barotac Nuevo and my two brothers were also football players. They encouraged me to play the sport and I was able to meet a lot of friends,” said Caligdong. “The sport also helped to build confidence and personal growth.”
PFF president Mariano Araneta, Jr. and general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes hailed the celebration of the AFC Grassroots Day.
“Grassroots football has made great strides in the country in recent years,” said Araneta. “The continuous growth of football here in the country underlines the PFF’s commitment to build on the strong foundations of the beautiful game.”
“The essence of grassroots football encompasses the basis for success at all levels,” added Gastanes. “Together, we have a responsibility to enhance the football landscape to build a better and brighter future for the next generation of players.”