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Planting seeds of grassroots football in Mindanao

THE Mindanao Cup set at the Tiongko Field in Davao City on Oct. 22-25, will be the start of the revival of the grassroots development of the beautiful game here in Mindanao.

Organized by the local FA and the supported by the Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA) under Ricky Yanson Jr., the tournament is for players born 2008-2009.

The tournament is envisioned by Yanson to discover young talents to play in the different national teams in the future.

The Mindanao Cup is the spill over of the five-year grassroots effort of Yanson in Negros Occidental, the NOFA Cup. The tournament held every summer at the Sta. Maria fields Talisay City since 2014, has become a showcase of young talents nationwide.

Out from the NOFA Cup young talents like ‘Whiz Kid’ from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental Elizah Zedric Ballesteros, the ‘Little Maradona’ from Kidapawan Kurt Sarip, ‘The Tiny Messi’ from Muntinlupa Jax Pena, Julio Yoldi from Dumaguete City, Lucas Andan, Adrian Bacolod, Earl Siconieguem,Viggo Louis Herce have emerged and have already represented the country in various age group competitions abroad.

The Mindanao Cup will be the start of the formal planting of the grassroots of the sport in Mindanao and it takes a Negrense, Ricky Yanson Jr. to do the initiative.

Does anyone remember a Mindanawnon initiating grassroots program for football in the island? This tournament will surely boast the grassroots development of the sport in the island where grassroots development has long been forgotten by the football gods.

When was the last time that there has been a grassroots development program in Mindanao or probably in the country? It has been a long time and I can’t even remember it now.

No wonder why our age group teams are whipping boys in any international tournaments abroad. The 17 local football associations affiliated with the PFF are excited about this tournament and most of them are expected to send teams to the weeklong competition.

Football is very popular in Mindanao. Just watch the different football festivals organized by local FA and you can just ask the question where do these players come from.

The players come in different sizes, different ages, boys and girls, men and women. They come in droves just to have a chance of kicking the football and competing against other teams.

These festivals sprout every weekend in every corner where there is a football pitch. In every big city fiesta celebration there is always a football fiesta.

Two weekends ago there was the Diyandi Football Festival in Iligan. A week prior to the Diyandi Football Festival, there was the Rep. Siao Festival also in Iligan. Last weekend the town of Initao in Misamis Oriental, through its local government also held its own football festival. This weekend, Dipolog will host its own football festival and after that more festivals are held all over the island.

These festivals are organized by individuals or local football FA’s without any support from the PFF. Sometimes local politicians fund these events like Mayor Regencia and Rep. Siao in Iligan and the Guingonas in Gingoog or the LGU of Dipolog.

These festivals attract hundred of teams from different age levels. They are magnets of politicians, sponsors and players. These festivals are the only source of competitions among our young players aside from the Department of Education Palaro eliminations.

Despite of the lack of a grassroots program in the island there are countless good players in and the best are plying their trade in the collegiate leagues in Manila. Just check the lineups of the different teams in the UAAP and in the NCAA. They are abundant with players from Mindanao.

The Mindanao Cup will only be the start of many grassroots program to come initiated by Ricky Yanson Jr. With his resources and his love for the sport, the golden age of grassroots football in our country is coming and the future of the beautiful game is bright. (Jack Biantan)

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