The Filipinos are known as basketball lovers because it is the favorite sport of the country. They treat basketball as religion because there are many courts everywhere whether it is indoor or outdoor. Only few people are playing football because it is not abundant in the Philippines especially the facilities and equipment. That was before. Today, football program emerged by the way of Philippine Azkals that composed of players who are half-blooded Filipinos but still willing to represent the country no matter what it is. Philippines’ own legend in the pitch the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) are making strives to further improve the sport by conducting some leagues and training programs especially for the youth.
However, Filipinos didn’t know that the country once had a sensation, a superstar, and a legend in the pitch. If the Brazilians had Pele, French had Zidane and Argentina has Lionel Messi, the Philippines also have their own icon. His name is Paulino Alcantara who is half-blooded (Spanish descent) but considered as the greatest footballer in the country. Alcantara was born on October 7, 1896 in Iloilo to a Spanish soldier and an Ilongga mother. They moved to Barcelona, Spain when he was three years old and from there, he started to practice football.
Philippines’ own legend in the pitch
He is known for his ability to hit powerful shots at the goal. In a game between Spain and France, he hit a shot so hard that it ripped right through the net. He is the first Filipino, specifically first Asian to play in a European club. He first played in FC Galeno. Joan Gamper, founder of Barca discovered him and eventually took him to the youth squad. He made his debut at the age of 15 years old against Catala SC in Campionat de Catalunya and he scored three goals, leading Barca to a victory, 9-0. From that point, he set the record for youngest player to ever score in a Barca uniform which was still unbroken as of today.
He returned to the Philippines in 1916 and represented the country. He played for Bohemian Sporting Club while studying medicine and guided the club to two Philippine championships, in 1917 and 1918. He had a stint for the Philippine national team and represented them to Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo by annihilating Japan, 15-2, which was still the biggest international football win margin for the Philippines.
He went back to Barca but had many difficulties at first especially in positioning. He was utilized as a defender but didn’t work. Nevertheless, he led Barca in Copa Del Rey and Campionat titles. From then on, Alcantara teamed up with Emilio Liñan, Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samiter and Felix Sesumaga as it marked the beginning of Barca’s golden era by dominating Campionat and CRommel Tangkay tournament.
After he retired, he became a doctor at the age of 31. He later served as a club director between 1931 and 1934. He was one of the first footballers to write memoirs in his playing days. He is now the second all-time leading scorer of Barca with 369 in 357 games behind Messi’s 482 goals.
Alcantara’s career was stellar and predominantly impressive. Although he played most of his career overseas, he never forgot to play for his homeland. His ability to make shots emphatically placed him as one of the all-time greats. Philippines’ own legend in the pitch Filipinos must remember his great contributions for football. Before it was Phil Younghusband or Emilio Caligdong, there was Paulino Alcantara, a greatest Filipino ambassador for football. Although he has a Spanish blood, he still devoted himself to represent the country.