Filipinos love sports. Fact. From football every week and boxing in the early morning, to basketball late at night and even the horses in the bookies!
With boxing currently dominated by a Filipino, the notable associations for golf, bowling, chess and of course the long running Philippine basketball league in the UK serve as excellent proof of our love for sport. Philippine United FC has now joined that list, it is the first and currently only registered Filipino football club in the UK and Europe. And this summer the President of the PFF (Philippine Football Federation), Jose Mari Martinez, came to the UK to show his support and acknowledgement of their progress and also offer hope to the players that they can realise their dream and play for the national team through playing for Philippine United FC. To my knowledge, no one from the PBA or Philippine National Basketball team has offered the same assurances to those playing basketball every week throughout the UK.
After a delay of a few days, Jose Mari Martinez finally arrived in England on August 13th for a 10 day trip to promote Philippine football in the UK as well as a series of meetings with some premier league and Championship managers with the aim of one day raising the Philippines to the same level as Japan and South Korea.
On Saturday August 15th, Sam Alladyce manager of Blackburn Rovers invited the delegation of PFF and PUFC to watch Blackburn Rovers against Manchester City, after that match, high profiles players and management from both clubs were introduced. The next Monday, a similar meeting with some officials at Manchester City’s Eastlands Stadium was held. A meeting with Everton Manager David Moyes, at Everton’s training ground the next day was followed by a trip to London as the delegation were invited by Fulham Manager Roy Hodgson, for their European cup match against Amkar Perm of Russia.
While in London, Martinez joined some PUFC players and Philippine National team players at Guanabana Restaurant in Camden. Filipino owner Omar stated his pride at the development of the Philippines National Team and that they had chosen to hold a meeting and dine in his restaurant.
Earlier, Crystal Palace Manager Neil Warnock invited PUFC to train on their ground sometime in the future; and even play a match against one of Crystal Palace’s reserve teams. A similar offer was made on a visit to see Sheffield Wednesday Manager, Brian Laws later on the Friday. The next day the delegation were invited by Wigan Manager Roberto Martinez, to watch Wigan against Manchester United. A meeting was arranged afterwards between PFF Spanish-talking president with the same surname as Wigan’s Spanish manager, but after Wigan’s big 0-5 defeat by Manchester United, the meeting was postponed out of respect for for Roberto.
All of the meetings which were arranged by the PUFC between the Managers and the PFF President turned out to be very positive, with talks about the possibility of opening some football academies in the Philippines. It was also suggested that some Philippine national players could come to the UK to train for a short period with these clubs. Talks will be held over the next couple of months.
Currently, the Philippines has 6 UK-based players in the team, this includes: Fulham’s reserve goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, Wimbledon’s Chad Gould and also we have the 3 Greatwich brothers Phil, Chris and Simon. With the addition of Rob Gier, a player from Grays Athletic who was recommended by PUFC, who turned out to be one of the best players in last year’s Asian Cup in Maldives.
Since June 2008 the Philippines went up from 189 to 152 in the FIFA rankings, showing the massive development and improvements introducing British –Filipino players to the team.
On the final day, Martinez watched our own Philippine United in a rematch against the New Manchester East team. The first match, played last year in the first trial for PUFC in August was a 7-2 victory for PUFC. This year it was a more even 1-1 draw. Martinez was delighted with what he saw and felt that he could see some players playing some part in the future of the Philippines.
This could not have been achieved without the hard, excellent and unpaid work from Manager, Leo Jensen, Head Coach, Norm Parkin and Assistant Coach, Steve Conroy. The future looks bright for Philippine United FC and Philippine Football.
On September 5th, PUFC started their first year in the West Hertfordshire League. A few weeks ago Oxhey, one of the teams already established in the league faced PUFC in a pre-season friendly match and despite their team being physically stronger and playing together for longer…PUFC defeated them 7-1.
The first league match match was played at home ground in Watford, it was against Maple Cross…it ended in a 3-2 victory for PUFC. A sign of things to come?
If you would like to support the team, get involved or just find out more information, please visit http://www.philippineunitedfc.com/.
By Adrian Williams and Leo Jensen
Photos courtesy of Adrian Williams and Leo Jensen