Grassroots and the PFF elections

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) will have its elections for president in November this year but so far, we haven’t heard of anyone coming forward to say he or she is running for president. I’ve heard of a couple of individuals but since both haven’t launched their campaigns formally, I’d refrain from commenting about them.

PREVIOUS. Mariano Araneta Jr. won the last PFF elections over Ricardo Yanson in 2019.

What I’m sure is already happening though is that right now, there are feelers being sent out or candidates doing the groundwork for their candidacies. Heck, I think as early as last year, the power brokers in the PFF were testing the waters, so to speak.

There’s nothing wrong with that, actually. As a private group, the PFF and the potential candidates are accountable to the voters, which are the presidents of the regional FAs. Fans like us are on the outside looking in.

We could make some noise, but we don’t get to make a choice.

Nonong Araneta has done a swell job since taking over from the ousted Mari Martinez back in 2011. Under his term, Philippine football has grown by leaps and bounds with the men’s team making its first appearance in the Asian Cup back in 2019.

In the past couple of years, it’s the women’s team that has been the bright spot for Philippine football as the country made the World Cup, won a Southeast Asian Games medal and won the Asean Football Federation Women’s Championships all in 2022.

Actually, at the start of his term, it was a Girls’ team — the U14 — that ended the country’s medal drought internationally and I think it is but fitting that almost a decade later that same age group is bannering our country’s colors.

Araneta’s successor will have a daunting challenge — sustaining the women’s progress, revitalizing our men’s teams and improving our grassroots programs.

Yes, we have a youth team setup but for me, we need a unique solution. Just as the women’s program is taking a top-down approach, letting senior coach Allen Stajcic and his team handle the youth teams, we also need an out-of-the-box solution for our grassroots programs.

We simply need more youth players and to do that we need to have the sport accessible to as many kids as possible, not just kids with parents able to pay.

One way to do that, I think, is to take advantage of Spanish-era designs still prevalent in towns outside the major cities where a plaza is located between the municipal hall and the church.

It may not be regulation size but if somehow the PFF can encourage the LGUs to utilize that green space as an area where kids can see other kids play the sport and eventually learn the basics, our pool of players will increase tremendously.

As the cliché goes, “to get that one-in-a-million player, you need to have a million players.” Right now, we’d be lucky to have 10,000 kids all over the country playing the sport.

It’s a departure from a previous stance but I believe that that should be a priority. The reason we keep getting players abroad is that the culture these players grew up in is leaps and bounds ahead of us.

We need to finally catch up.

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