Aggressive recruitment key to FEU pitch juggernaut
MANILA, Philippines—As if winning a UAAP football title is hard enough, Far Eastern U set an astonishing record by sweeping the men’s, women’s and juniors classes for the second straight season over the weekend.
But the Tamaraws’ success did not come overnight. In fact, it was the continuation of a long process that entailed plenty of patience and sacrifice, not to mention the full backing of the school.
FEU did have a title-winning side in the men’s division in the early part of the decade, but sustaining the success required an aggressive recruitment plan.
Fueled by the belief that it could produce national players with the right strategy, FEU embarked on a program that saw the school recruit players as young as 13 to join the high school side.
“All of our success is mainly because of our grassroots program,” FEU athletic director Mark Molina told the Inquirer.
Indeed, the Tamaraws had players who bled green and yellow when they battled La Salle for the men’s title last Sunday in front of a packed grandstand at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
A member of the national pool, Paolo Bugas, who scored the title-clinching goal in the 3-2 extra-time win, is already on his eighth year at FEU, starting out with the high school team just like top scorer Eric Giganto and Arnel Amita.
All of the players were honed by Korean Kim Chul-su, who has handled the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the UFL.
“Master Kim is a world-class coach and he developed these players early,” said Molina.
The Tamaraws are a joy to watch, establishing their own style of play predicated on movement, combinations and intricate passing. La Salle led twice in the finals, but the brilliance of Giganto, Bugas, Amita and MVP Jess Melliza eventually came to the fore.
The Lady Tamaraws also secured a third straight title at the expense of University of the Philippines, 3-2, with MVP Alesa Dolino leading the way. Just like Bugas and Co., Dolino came to FEU when she was still in high school.
In former national player Let Dimzon, the Lady Tamaraws also have a coach whom Molina believes is perfect for them: “It’s a perfect match for Let and this team because she’s a former player.”
The program’s recent success has made recruitment easier with players coming forward to try out for the team. Molina points to this reason why they also have a stronger high school side, which nipped Ateneo, 3-2, for the juniors’ title last Saturday.
The FEU football juggernaut looks far from finished, however.
“After winning all these championships, we’re getting a luxury that we have now [of getting a better selection of players],” said Molina.
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