Thursday, December 20, 2007


The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) website describes one of its former presidents, Felipe Monserrat as "a prominent businessman and sports lover, Felipe Monserrat assumed the Presidency of PAAF and 'NOC Philippines' with a vision of initiating drastic reforms in sports. Despite his short stint as head of Philippine sports, he managed the organization with distinction and professional management." There are some errors in the site that needs to be corrected right away, because contrary to what the POC website claims, the truth of the matter is that Monserrat was POC head for four years - 1968-1972, and not 1969-1970. He was also concurrent head of the PAAF, and headed the Philippine Olympic Delegation to the 1968 Mexico Olympics as well. He was then re-elected to the same office in 1970. However, he decided not to seek re-election after his tenure in 1972. His vision for Philippine sports then is that very same vision we now hold close to our hearts. I have been proud and honored (and will always be) to claim kinship with him, being a first cousin of my late mother on the Caballero clan, and only recently had I discovered of his tremendous and substantial contributions to Philippine sports, including football. I found out no less from him that prior to 1961, there was no Philippine Football Association (PFA). All there was was a 'football committee' forming part of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Association (PAAF). The president of the PAAF then was Mr. Antonio de las Alas, who decided, together with the PAAF Executive Committee all matters regarding football, in spite of their very limited knowledge of the sport. Monserrat was then a member of the football committee and sad to say, each time he wanted to promote or do something positive for football and bring it to a higher level, the PAAF committee would almost always turn him down because of 'lack of funds' for any project. This prompted Monserrat, out of frustration but still with that driving 'spirit of sports' in him to talk to some friends believeing that it was time for all sports associations to seek independence and autonomy, and to make decisons on their own with their respective sports. Monserrat, obviously doing this for football, got togethet with Naning Yenko, Teddy Benigno, Louie Javellana and Virgilio Pantaleon and founded the 'Association for the Advancement of Amateur Athletics' or AAAA. Deciding that this was the only way to achieve 'autonomy for all sports,' they went to Congress and the Senate to lobby with its representatives an important bill that would give autonomy to Philippine sports. It was an uphill battle, even with a powerful endorsement from no less than President Carlos P. Garcia himself. The PAAF fought them with every ammunition they could strike them with. This 'lobbying' took two years of weekly visits to both congresses, including a historic 'march of athletes' to Malacanang to show that Filipino athletes were rock solid in supporting their struggle for 'autonomy.' And then finally, 'Republic Act # 3135 was passed, giving full autonomy for all sports in the country. Gone were the days when athletes and sports officials had to beg PAAF for money - for support it so deserves. They now became autonomous and so had the free hand in organizing their respective sports. This planted the seed for the birth of the various National Sports Associations (NSAs).

So, in 1961, the Philippine Football Association (PFA) was born. Monserrat became its first president and his term would span over ten years. Among his various projects was a decision of his to import foreign coaches. And since this was expensive to do, he decided to approach Mr. Andres Soriano of San Miguel to persuade him to sponsor the importation of foreign coaches for Philippine football. It was then that Monserrat touched bases with the Spanish Football Federation to get him some Spanish coaches for Filipino football players. The Spanish federation recommended four Spaniards - among them were the great Juan Cutillas and Tomas Lozano. The importation of these foreign coaches was so relevant and successful that Monserrat persuaded further Mr. Soriano to import four more British coaches and two Irish coaches. They arrived in the Philippines and their contributions to Philippine football were outstanding. It was during this era when the Philippines was at par, sometimes even better with teams from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Philippine football was at its finest. But prior to this, our team would be losing miserably to these countries.

Because of Felipe Monserrat's achievements and contributions for Philippine sports (including football), the Alabama based United States Sports Academy (USSA) honored him by inclusion to its 'Hall of Fame.' Dr. Tom Rosanditch, its president, together with two other members of the USSA Executive Committe flew to the country for the awarding rites. It was a momentous occasion that was held in Malacanang with high officials from government, from the business sector, and from the diplomatic community. The PFA Executive Committe unanimously elected him as its honorary president for life.

And so, the same football blood that flows in the veins of my uncle flows in mine. As one of the founders and organizers of FUTBOL FILIPINO, it is my dream to hold the 1ST FELIPE MONSERRAT CUP. Lest we forget his achievements which paved the way for the freedom for all sports in our country, it is high time we honor this true sportsman - this gentleman who contributed so much to Philippine sports and to Philippine football.

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