Basketball? Not in 2 Iloilo towns | Inquirer Sports

Basketball? Not in 2 Iloilo towns

/ 05:00 AM June 28, 2018

SOCCER COUNTRY Children playing football is a common sight at the town plaza of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo province, where residents stay up late to watch the World Cup. —NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.

In the Iloilo towns of Barotac Nuevo and Santa Barbara, shrieks and cheers in houses in the middle of the night in recent weeks were not a cause of alarm for residents.

Those were just the sound of football fans cheering for their teams in this year’s World Cup being held in Russia, a spectacle rare in basketball-crazy Philippines.

“Many residents stay up late or wake up early to watch the games on television,” said Roceller “Boyet” Sumbillo, a native of Santa Barbara and president of Panay Football Association (PFA).

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“It’s more exciting if the games are watched in groups over drinks or arroz caldo (chicken rice porridge),” he said.

Inconvenient, but…

Due to time zone difference, games in the quadrennial football competition are being aired live on television nightly at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when most people are  either getting ready for sleep or are already asleep.

The inconvenience won’t stop people of the two towns and some Ilonggo football fans from keeping tabs of the games and their favorite teams.

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Barotac Nuevo and Santa Barbara have produced some of the country’s best football players now in the national team and clubs.

The national team used to have mostly Ilonggo players until foreigners with Filipino lineage came in and formed the team Azkals.

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The sport was first introduced to Barotac Nuevo, considered the football capital of the Philippines, in the 1920s by the Monfort brothers, members of a prominent Ilonggo family.

Town’s passion

They learned to play football, which is now Barotac Nuevo’s passion, at Colegio de San Agustin (now University of San Agustin) in Iloilo City.

Sumbillo said officials planned to put up a giant screen at the town plaza of Santa Barbara to offer free viewing of World Cup games starting on June 30, when the Round of 16 starts, until July 15, the day of the finals.

Emannuel Salvador Braganza, PFA director and a native of Barotac Nuevo, said games were being shown on a giant screen at Barotac Nuevo’s town plaza at least three times a week by a local television cable provider.

“We’re hoping to have it daily and all the games starting in the quarterfinal round,” he told the Inquirer.

Talk of the town

He said the games were the talk of the town in coffee shops, offices and schools.

“Many students want to also stay up late and also watch the games but they have classes the next day,” said Braganza, who also coaches football teams.

Former national team player Ricardo Venus, PFA secretary general, said the World Cup this year was more exciting because matches had become unpredictable with upsets becoming common.

“Unlike previous World Cups, there is no clear winner or strong contender and those that were perceived as underdogs have beaten the favored teams so it’s more exciting,” Venus said.

In Iloilo City, sports bars were also showing live telecasts of the matches.

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“We are still very much a basketball country, but the popularity of football is growing,” he said.

TAGS: Barotac Nuevo, Basketball, World Cup

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