Friday, June 30, 2006

Did you know that one of the greatest footballers in history was a Filipino?

While the rest of the world is going gaga over the World Cup, we basketball-crazy Pinoys seem indifferent about it.

The New York Times wrote: One country immune to the fever is the Philippines, which, like its former colonial master, the United States, pays little attention to soccer. "If there's anything that can be said of my country," said Carlos Conde (who is New York Times and International Herald Tribune's Philippine correspondent), "it's never crazy about football. Basketball, yes, as you know, but not football. There's absolutely no buzz here."

But did you know that there was a great Filipino football player who had played for the prestigious Spain-based team FC Barcelona, making him the first Asian-born player to play for a European club?

Meet Paulino Alcantara, a Filipino-Spanish footballer who played for FC Barcelona, Bohemians Manila, the Philippines and Spain. According to Wikipedia, Alcantara is "still the youngest player to play and score for FC Barcelona in a competitive game. He played for the club between 1912 and 1927, scoring 357 goals in 357 matches and remains the clubs all-time top goalscorer."

I got this surprising information from Howie Severino. Writing in his blog, he said: "My hand-wringing in an earlier post about Filipino indifference to the World Cup led my brother Kokoy to remind me that an early legend in European football was Paulino Alcantara (1896-1964), a striker born in Iloilo, still the Philippines' soccer hotbed. 'In any other country, Alcantara would be a national hero,' Kokoy writes.

"Like today's Asian superstars, he played professionally for a top European club, the first Asian-born player to do so. Scoring 374 goals in 375 matches, Alcantara remains the all-time top goal scorer in the history of Spain's FC Barcelona, one of the most storied and richest clubs in world football, and today the professional team of Ronaldhino, current World Player of the Year."

For more of Howie's post, click here.

The Wikipedia entry on Alcantara also linked a tribute (from YouTube) on him. Press the Play button on the video below to view the clip or click here.

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