Alive & Kicking


Football and Negros

It was a moment for the ages for those fortunate to witness Lionel Messi hoist up his first World Cup for Argentina last year. Swarms of chanting people flooded the streets all around the globe as the final whistle blew, establishing again the undisputed fact that soccer, or football to many of us, is the most popular and well-loved sport in the world.

Negrenses are just as committed to the game, especially after basketball has reigned supreme in the hearts of Filipinos since it was introduced by the Americans. Our affinity for football has long been documented and quite a number of players in the Philippine teams trace their roots to Negros. Manuel Amechazurra, born in Bacolod, etched his name in history as the first Filipino to play in the European football circuit, joining FC Barcelona from 1905 to 1915. A recent triumph in 2019 saw the Negros team claim the top spot in the country's under-19 division, surpassing Cebu and Iloilo. The province has made significant contributions to the Philippines Men’s and Women’s National Football teams, with several former and current members hailing from the region, including Tating Pasilan, Joshua Beloya, Alesa Dolino, and Robert Cañedo.

The timeline of football's development in Negros exemplifies dedication and perseverance, and attests to football as sports baked into Negrense heritage. According to former Philippine national football team member Hernani Jimenez, in the 1960s, the Boys Football Association (BOFA) laid the foundation for the sport in the province, introducing it to young students. Annual football leagues and friendly rivalries among teams added excitement to its growth, eventually culminating in the rise of the illustrious Ceres Football Club in the professional league. Hernani further highlights the beauty of football in its inclusivity, as athletes from all walks of life come together to play, contributing to Negros' status as a powerhouse in Philippine football, leaving an indelible mark on the sport's history.

Football's influence in the province expanded beyond official institutions, permeating even the educational landscape. Nearly every school in Negros equipped with enough space boasts of a football field, with La Salle, Don Bosco, West Negros, and UNO-R being some of the institutions that nurtured a history of football. The rivalries between these schools ignited a passionate competitive spirit, pushing players to reach new heights of skill and teamwork.

For this article, former La Salle Bacolod football players Bobby Gonzaga and Peter Tison were interviewed. They recounted their enduring rivalry with the Don Bosco football team, which began in grade school and lasted through high school. They nostalgically recalled crafting makeshift shin guards from strips of bamboo, held in place with a piece of cloth. Both Bobby and Peter expressed how their shared love for the sport not only fostered fierce competition but also forged lifelong friendships.

The University of St. La Salle Men’s Football Team from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.

Influential figures and football leagues, spanning from the past to the present, have played a pivotal role in advancing football's popularity in the province. Supported by the provincial government, their dedication to the sport and tireless efforts in promoting it laid the foundation for a rich football tradition in the region. Despite continued progress, football has undergone significant transformation, evolving from a male-dominated sport to one that now embraces a growing number of emerging female athletes competing in major leagues. According to Coach Cocoy Treyes, the Football Liaison Officer of the Provincial Sports Development Office, Negros Occidental Governor Bong Lacson is actively driving efforts to further develop Negros as a sought-after venue for national and international sporting events.

Coach Cocoy Treyes enjoying the exhibition game.

In January 2023, football in Negros received a boost when De La Salle University football players and coaches from Manila visited Bacolod for a football clinic. The DLSU Training Camp held at the Panaad Stadium brought over 30 male and 30 female players, affording aspiring local talents the opportunity to learn from seasoned players and enhance their skills. The subsequent exhibition matches against five female and six male teams from Negros showcased the Negrense's immense talent, leaving no doubt that football in the province thrives. DLSU Women’s Football Team coach, Hans Smit, recognizes the untapped talent in Negros, asserting that with more exposure to the sport and the big stage, its full potential can be unlocked.

The talented players of Ronins United Women's Football Club.

July 20th marked a milestone as the Philippine Women’s Football Team qualified for the first time to compete for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Their maiden play was against the mighty Swiss team, and though that was their first, their skill and bravura assure us that won’t be their last. Cheer them on in their upcoming matches in this round, against New Zealand on July 25, and against Norway on July 30. Raise our flag and cry out: “Goooooooal!”

Written by: Mayumi Espina

Photo by: Unit A Creatives

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft