ARMM booters play for peace and prosperity
DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) - They may play with worn-out shoes, but definitely never with worn-out hearts.
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where a number of kids either take up arms to join the conflict or forego their future by abandoning their education, 15 young men decided to play football for peace and prosperity, instead.
Meet the promising footballers of ARMM -- where passion exceeds lack of support and skill exceeds quality of equipment.
Mostly from Tawi-tawi, these young footballers are raring and excited to compete in their debut showcase in the Palarong Pambansa.
The province has never won a football trophy in the annual sports competition and they hope to bring the region's first championship home.
Thrice-a-day training with worn-out shoes
Football is relatively a sport of the masses, with just a ball and a patch of grass needed to play it.
But in a country where basketball is inarguably the most popular sport, football has almost always been tucked under the shadows of history.
And despite the rise in the sport's profile following the emergence of the Philippine Azkals, problems in equipment, quality pitches and the like remain.
According to ARMM captain Mohammad Haider Omar, it is no different in their region, where even their team lacks the proper equipment -- balls and shoes -- in preparing for competitions.
"We have worn-out shoes that we use in our training. We only have 4 footballs as well," he said.
Despite this predicament, Omar and his teammates do not take this as a hindrance in playing the sport they love. Even with shoes whose studs are no longer recognizable, the ARMM booters are still able to train thrice a day.
"We love to play football. Yes, we have old shoes but it doesn't stop us from doing what we love," he said.
Trophy not the end goal
Bringing home the trophy to their region is not the end goal, though. They want to play the sport they love to have a brighter future.
Omar, whose father is a fisherman and whose mother a teacher, hopes to help his family through football by making it into a good college through a scholarship.
Haider's brother, Omar Miktar Omar, also the team's second striker, wants to make the national team and become an Azkal -- a dream everyone in the team shares.
Defender Kadil Roger, one of the team's central defenders, whose father died of stroke when he was 11 years old and is dependent on his older siblings plying their chances in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, only wants to help his mother in their daily finances.
"I want to play football not just to become an Azkal," he said. "I want to go to a good school, get a scholarship, and earn money for my mother."
Asked about their chances in the annual tournament and bringing home the trophy, Roger shyly smiled and said these words.
"The ball is round. Anything can happen. We can win or we can lose. But one thing is for sure, we will try our best to enjoy the games and win them when we can," he said. - Rappler.com