Other side of the coin: Negative impact of heritage players in youth system

(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Feb. 9 edition)

Everyone was fully supportive when early last year, the management of the women’s senior team said it would take over the handling of the U17 and U19 teams. After securing the country’s historic first berth in the Fifa World Cup, no one questioned the move? A move that was meant to make it easier for the senior team to spot Pinay talents all over the world who could, someday, be tapped for the senior team.

FILIPINAS U17. Members of the U17 Filipinas in the Mima Cup, the first time that a Philippine youth football team is composed mostly of heritage players.

But hindsight gives you 20/20 vision and in hindsight, the (Philippine Football Federation) PFF should have never agreed to such a move. Adopting the Filipinas’ practice of scouring the globe for the best talent there is to suit up for the national squad may be perfect for our senior team but is disastrous for the youth teams.

Why? It’s simple. What’s the point in molding our next Sarina Bolden when they won’t get a chance to suit up for the national team? Because when the best-of-the-best of our homegrown talents gets weighed next to Pinays raised abroad, they fall short due to the structure and football culture those raised abroad lived in.

I read a comment in my last column, where someone said the country benefits from having the heritage players in your youth system. Sorry to burst your bubble. Nope, it’s the other way around. It’s the heritage players who benefit, not Philippine football.

Let’s be brutally honest for once. The heritage players are trying out for the Philippine team because they are a dime a dozen in their home country and are not good enough for the national youth teams. By trying out and making the Philippine team, their stock rose in their home country. If they could, they’d pick the English, Swedish, the United States or whatever side over the Philippines.

So, how can the PFF strike a balance?

Well, over the years, I’ve touted how the PFF is the perfect national sports association that every sport in the country should follow, but in this case, Philippine football should follow Philippine basketball.

Philippine basketball only had a handful of heritage players in the youth teams, and these were the exceptional ones. We can adopt that for football and limit the spots for the youth teams to one-of-kind heritage players.

That means, of course, that we would lose and won’t be as successful as the senior team.

Yeah. So what?

In normal footballing countries, the success of the senior team reflects the strength of a country’s grassroots program. That is not the case of the Philippines, which has tapped the Philippine diaspora for the senior men’s and women’s teams.

Our youth system has been trying to play catchup with the success of our senior teams but adopting the Filipinas model for the youth system is akin to abandoning our own youth system, fragile and limited as it is.

This shortcut method of adopting the Filipinas system is detrimental to Philippine youth football.

One reply on “Other side of the coin: Negative impact of heritage players in youth system”

It is always good to see articles on these topics. It will spark discussions with PH enthusiasts for sure.
Here is my opinion….
Each country has a certain culture, structure, DNA if you will. The PH is known for having an OFW structure which gives us an advantage for sport. Other South East Asian countries have football as their number one sport, and yet they naturalize players. PH does not have naturalized players (except for a rare few like Marañon). So why do some people insist about dividing home grown vs fil-foreign (heritage) players?
It should not be one or the other, but rather to use both paths and aim to get the best players out of them. We should think of getting our local structure in proper order so they can be competitive internationally. So what is that logical structure? First and foremost is getting our coaches & management teams international exposure and necessary licenses to have the same base for youth development. (I understand this is being done already)
Next is to have a proper youth structure – and the idea to bring back provincial qualifiers & national championships is a good support for national team recruitment. From a club perspective, there are already some that are helping to improve the local structure. Tuloy have players that improved exponentially, and Azzuri have established a structure – for sure we will be seeing more players from them (and other clubs) in the PH national youth and senior teams.
On the other end of the recruitment stage, which is on the ‘heritage’ side – we should recruit the best players we can find. I know we are only scratching the surface. This applies to both men’s and women’s age groups.
It will take a few more years before we have home grown to be competitive internationally, and while waiting for them to grow, we have the heritage players to fill the roster. We should always get the best – home grown or heritage. PH citizenship is recognized by blood so why should it be any different?
I have friends that have migrated to US and Australia – with their children playing for PH youth national teams. Why will we treat them differently? If people had opportunities to improve their family lives with living abroad, why penalize them? Remember that Alphonse Areola is 100% pinoy blood but chose to play for France.
From established football nations in Africa and South America for example – they may live and breathe football, but the best in youth and senior get recruited by clubs in Europe. Do you think Messi will be the best if he stayed in Argentina? Hell no.
So the highlight of this is – have a proper structure to develop home grown players, use both paths of home grown and international recruitment to get the best players. It will improve PH football for sure.

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