LOCAL football got a major boost with the arrival of the entire Philippine men's football team and its coaching staff in Davao City for a 10-day training session that was highlighted by entertaining matches, dramatic events and an admirable gesture that inspired football players and the sport's enthusiasts no end, especially the young booters in this part of the land.
And since it's not every day that a Philippine team, in any sport for that matter, holds camp in Davao, the Davao Football Association (DFA), young players and their parents grabbed the golden opportunity by playing a great host and mingling with the squad members mentored by British coach Simon Alexander McMenemy and led by the Filipino-British Younghusband brothers -- James and Phil.
What a wonderful week for Davao football as the national players displayed their skills right before the eyes of the local fans, conducted clinics for the youngsters and visited schools that had the pupils screaming at the top of their voices just at the mere sight of the players, most specially the Younghusband brothers.
The players obliged for autographs and had their photos taken with the kids and their parents, who inched their way just to get near them and whenever they had the chance all throughout the nationals' stay in Davao.
The DFA, led by its president Rafael "Pops" Vilela, helped arrange the three friendly matches played by the RP booters and it was indeed interesting to watch them play against the local players.
The RP squad won all of them, but it has to endure the tough challenge mounted by the University of Mindanao, Hooligans FC and local club champion Medvil FC. But more than the games, the camaraderie and friendship between the competing teams flourished in the end.
Just after taking a brunch at Bai Lim's Stadium Buffet Restaurant and Sports Lounge, McMeneny was asked on the team's status after the drill in Davao and was quick with his reply.
"It's been great. The players have become very responsible and the team very conpetitive in the past three friendly games," McMenemy said.
That was a few hours before the players check out at Casa Letesia where they had been staying and head to the Davao International Airport to catch an afternoon flight back to Manila.
But McMenemy and his players attested that what made their stay in Davao even more wonderful was because of the hospitality extended by the people.
"The friendliness of the people of Davao really helped the team. There's been fantastic reception wherever we go. It was heartwarming," McMenemy said.
The Davao stopover had to end and the RP players had to break camp as it embarks on more practice sessions in Manila and Taiwan for a big competition in Laos.
They may have left, but their wisdom will forever remain in the hearts and minds of the young Davao players who are headed for their own battle as they grow up.
Sun Star Davao