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I am a British born Merseyside native who grew up playing competitive football and spent the last nine years of my life discovering Asia and its people. Due to its demand for football, I found work as a physical education teacher and a football development officer in Phuket and Bangkok, where I set up and managed a football academy for the youth.
In 2014, after a short sabbatical and soul-searching period in the UK, I came to the Philippines to see how I could help after super typhoon Haiyan wiped away entire towns and villages in the southern part of the country. But Philippine football soon found me and today, after four years of exposure to the country’s emerging football culture, I head one of the country’s foremost football-based advocacies. Football for Humanity was my dream, and today it is recognized as one of the Philippines’ top grassroots football movements.
I managed to travel around key areas of the Philippines, which allowed me to undertake much needed research of the football culture, which led to developing a strategy that serves children affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty. I realised what was lacking, what the demand was, how the Philippines generally perceived sport, and why football was not so popular. Football infrastructure is almost none existent, expertise is minimal but the Filipino heart is steadfast for positive change. Football infrastructure is core of the strategy, where the building of traditional five-a-side football pitches can actually sow the seeds of play and peace, unity and respect among children who are now provided with an opportunity to thrive and live out their childhood.
Moving forward to 2017, the Philippines experienced the most violent armed conflict since World War 2 led by ISIS-armed groups, obliterating the Islamic City of Marawi, in Mindanao, resulting in over 600,000 displaced people with almost half of them children. Today, we are using football as a platform for humanitarian assistance and healing for the long-term psychosocial development of children. By using the sport of football, I align my objectives with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for the effective implementation of programs that help to holistically develop marginalised children and empower them to be resistant to the negative effects of modern slavery, poverty and conflict-torn environments.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” I can personally attest to the unifying power of sport, and how it can unite and break down barriers, develop societies, and promote the positive values of inclusion, diversity and respect. Therefore I harness this power to inspire, empower and transform children all over the Philippines so when they grow up, they will become productive members of society, shedding the trauma that threatened their childhood and become champions themselves, inspiring the next generation to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty. In the process, who knows? The next Ronaldo or Messi could be a little boy in one of these 7100 islands, playing without shoes with a ball from Football for Humanity and NYFA.
We are very honoured to be working with NYFA. I believe that NYFA will have a great impact on Swedish and Philippine football with their unique philosophy that serves as a catalyst to positively change the youth and develop the sport. The most exciting part of our future with NYFA is the cross culture collaboration, youth leadership training and the development of football.
I graduated from Edge Hill University in 2009 with a Bachelors degree in Sports Development and was trained by the English FA as a coach in Liverpool. The Football for Humanity Foundation is an independent charity registered both in the Philippines and in the United Kingdom.