Youth football club Malaya FC fulfilled its dream of playing on the European stage with a stint at the prestigious Mediterranean International Cup 2019 (MIC ‘19) held April 16-21 in Spain’s Costa Brava region.
The 20-member squad under the leadership of coach Park Bobae was the only Southeast Asian team in the tournament, which counts as alumni some of Europe’s football greats.
Competing in the U16 (born 2003 or younger) category, Malaya FC in the group stages notched a 2-1 win over Barcelona-based Sant Ignasi team, lost 1-2 to Juventus Football Academy of Lloret de Mar, before finally bowing 0-12 to the boys of “La Masia” - FC Barcelona’s famed football academy that produced the likes of Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi. FCB La Masia went on to win the championship in a field of 60 teams.
The team also played in the pre-MIC tournament with other youth teams from Spain's Girona region, and the MIC consolation round where it reached the quarterfinals.
“Of course, we would have preferred a better result,” said Malaya FC secretary-general Mark Duane Angos.
“However, our primary goal in joining the MIC is for the boys to experience and be inspired by the level of football played by their peers in Europe.”
As the first team formed by Malaya FC, the U16 squad has played a number of tournaments in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
In 2018, the U16 team reached the finals of the Borneo Cup in Kota Kinabalu, considered the biggest youth football tournament in Southeast Asia. The team has also played in Singapore’s Singa Cup, and in Japan in a tournament hosted by J-League club Shonan Bellmare.
Back home, the same team won the championship of the Youth Football League (YFL) in the 2018 season.
Coach Park said their biggest takeaway from the tournament is that “preparation is key.” Given the level of football played by European youth clubs, he said, at least one year of intensive training and physical conditioning is needed to be able to play competitively at the MIC.
“We know what to do next time,” said Park who is also the head coach of the FEU UAAP juniors team.
Understandably, the Malaya FC players were disappointed with their results. But they welcomed the experience to play in Europe and the opportunity to raise the level of their game.
Consistent with Malaya FC’s mission of improving lives through football, about a third of the U16 team comes from underprivileged families in Metro Manila.
Thanks to their football skills honed through years of training with Malaya FC, these players have been given athletic scholarships by some of the country’s biggest colleges and universities.
Malaya FC’s participation in the MIC was made possible with the help of corporate sponsors Frontrow, Cherrylume GI sheets, Genesis Transport, Manila Standard, Barcino Wine Resto Bar, Macondray Philippines, Smart, Allianz PNB Life, and Mister Donut.
Malaya FC is also grateful for the support of the Youth Football Club (YFL) where the club is a founding member, the Cavite Football Association which also counts the club as a member, the Philippine Football Federation.
Even before its MIC ‘19 participation, Malaya FC has taken its youth development efforts to the next level with the Sugod Malaya development program led by FEU football head Vince Santos.
Founded in 2013, Malaya FC is a non-stock, non-profit, SEC-registered organization that focuses on underprivileged or at-risk youth, giving them a chance to play the beautiful game and a shot at a better future.