Federation seeks to honor Filipino football great

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ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The Philippine Football Federation  is seeking to honor a world football legend with Ilonggo roots by naming a section of the Museo Iloilo after him.

In separate letters to Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor and Museo Iloilo president Victoria Segovia, PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr. asked the province and the museum management to host an exhibit featuring Paulino Alcantara and to name a section of the museum in his honor.

Araneta said the exhibit and possible naming of a section of the museum in Alcantara’s name are part of efforts to bring members of the Spanish club Futbol Club Barcelona (Barcelona Football Club) to Iloilo to hold a football camp in the province.

Iloilo is known for its passion for football. Barotac Nuevo town has been dubbed as the country’s football capital for devotion to the sport and for producing many of the country’s top football players.

FC Barcelona is one of the world’s most famous and biggest football clubs with several of its players among those who played in the Spanish national team that won the 2010 World Cup.

Araneta said there was also a possibility that FC Barcelona would establish a football academy in the province similar to those that produced some of the world’s top football players.

Alcantara, born to a Spanish military officer and an Ilongga mother on Oct. 7, 1896, is a football legend especially in Spain.

While he is largely unknown to Filipinos and even Ilonggos, he is revered in the world football community with tributes and memorial sites devoted to him on the Internet.

As a striker of FC Barcelona where he played from 1912 to 1927, Alcantara is best known for scoring 357 goals in as many games played, or an average of one goal per game. He helped the club win five Spanish championships and 10 Catalan League championships, according to club’s Web site.

According to various accounts, Alcantara went to Spain when he was 14 years old, a year before he debuted with FC Barcelona. He returned to the Philippines in 1916, or when he was 20 years old, and played for two years with the Bohemians, a Filipino football club.

He returned to Spain and resumed playing with his club in 1918 when he rose to become a legend.

He retired from football in 1927 to dedicate his time to medicine but he briefly coached the Spanish national team in 1951, which was unbeaten in the three matches that he steered the team.

Alcantara died in Barcelona on Feb. 13, 1964, at the age of 67, according to the FC Barcelona Web site.

The international football federation Fifa currently ranks the Philippines 148th out of 205 member-countries in men’s football.

But during Alcantara’s peak the Philippines became an Asian football powerhouse with the country bagging the gold in the 1913 Far Eastern Games, the forerunner of the Asian Games.

A life-sized statue of Alcantara was unveiled at the PFF office at the PhilSports Complex in Pasig during the football centennial commemoration in 2007.

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