Sunday, October 05, 2003 issue
by Paul J. Taneo, Columnist - Free for all
The pure joy in the faces of children is something money can't buy. Perhaps a football worth less than P100 can do the job.
Having not witnessed such unmitigated pleasure since watching the expressions of a group kids in a clown-magician garden show during a birthday party or the visionaries of Fatima taking communion from an invisible hand, it is nothing short of gratifying. Like giving a poor little girl the first doll she had ever owned. The happiness is true and untainted. A brook in the middle of forest hundreds of kilometers from civilization.
Thursday afternoon near sunset, grade-school teacher Mr. Abellar and I led a group of 14 Grade 1 students into a field that can be technically called idle if not for a cow tethered acting like a lawn mower needing no petrol. The clouds having dumped rain on the field a day ago, it was wet in a few furrows on the side of the area designated as the playing field.
With five junior-sized footballs donated by the CFA in line with its Kasibulan 6-12 outreach program, we quickly taught the kids the rudiments of the game: "This is a football. Foot on ball, that's how you control it. Avoid hitting it with your hands. That's a foul…Now let's play a game."
It was a swift and rudimentary introduction realizing children's extreme need to play. And there were games, three on three. No goalies. Four balls as goalposts and the fifth as the game ball.
Besides continually reminding the kids not to touch the ball with their hands and that they were supposed to shoot on the other side and not on their own, it was a lot of fun watching them go after the ball in band unmindful of teammates and opponents. A small coterie of neighborhood kids and adults acted as the cheering squad for no team in particular.
Avoiding puddles, cow dung and dog shit, the players still in their school uniforms, fell on their bottoms to the great delight of everyone thrilled by the unintended pratfall.
The first team to make three goals won. One game was so even it was stuck at 2-all for like forever we had to end it so the others kids with mouth watering eager to play next could have their turn and before the sun hid behind the large warehouse to the west.
With little lungs pumping behind their chests and sweat pouring down their faces, it was time to end the fun. The kids were asked to fall in line and shake hands with their playmates. About half made scissor, paper and stone mimicking the captain balls at the start of the games.
Two of the bigger boys showed promise. One whom I instantly christened Ronaldo for his speed and surprising savvy had an inspiring zeal in his eyes and quickness in his feet. He scored at least two thirds of all the goals his team made. His classmate said his real name is Leonilo Estacion. A boy from a broken home who now lives with his siblings in their aunt's place.
Football has given countless athletes scholarships and better lives. Football has made superior athletes like the real Ronaldo, Pele and Beckenbauer multi-millionaires. That's looking too far ahead. These barangay schoolchildren know Hontiveros, Limpot and Adducul much more easily.
They have fun watching these basketball stars play and have fun playing basketball. Football is new to them and now they know it's just as fun. And they don't even have to be as tall their PBA heroes to be as good.
I'm not sure how eager they are for next Thursday to be able to play again. I only know I can't wait.