Coming this Far

For 23 years, the Alaska Football Cup has continued to shape some of the country’s brightest athletes.

 

 

It’s been 23 years since the Alaska Football Cup (AFC) first opened its doors to aspiring, young footballers with dreams of making it big one day. Now, the largest football tournament in the Philippines continues to stay true to its roots – catering to thousands of athletes from all ages to hone their skills on the pitch, learn the importance of proper nutrition, and good values in sport.

And with this 2018 edition of the tournament concluding last weekend at the Ayala Alabang Country Club, PlayPH met with a few AFC old-timers to talk about how they witnessed the tournament grow.

 

HIGH-LEVEL COMPETITION

 “It’s going against teams from other parts of the Philippines. That’s what’s special about the Alaska [Football] Cup,” says 21-year-old National Football Team player Sara Castañeda. According to her, her first taste of the AFC came during 2002 when she was just five years old, slowly inching her way through the basics of the game under the guidance of the Makati Football School and coach Tomas Lozano.

 

Sara Castañeda’s future was bound for great things, as seen here during her early years at the Alaska Football Cup.

 

As one of the forefront athletes of the De La Salle University Women’s Football Team and the National Football Team, Castañeda takes pride in knowing that the AFC helped pave the way for her bright football career.

According to her, playing in the AFC gave her the competitive advantage she needed to succeed against stronger teams and players “…playing there gave me the edge I needed. We were playing against some of the top teams in the country, and I learned a lot from that experience.”

 

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

 Today, at 30 years of age, former DLSU player Maan Del Carmen still likes to lace up and hit the fields. She too, did her time at the AFC growing up. According to Del Carmen, the AFC was, and still is the place for young footballers to develop the skills to succeed.

 

Maan Del Carmen started playing at the AFC during the fifth grade – a tradition she’s followed all the way until her playing years in the UAAP.

 

“Learning things at a very young age is crucial. If you’re taught things right the first time, then you’ll do it right forever. That’s probably why we joined the Alaska Cup then, para ma-develop skills namin early on,” says Del Carmen.

 

An old snapshot of Maan and her De La Salle Zobel teammates celebrating at the AFC.

 

The AFC provides many important lessons, especially for growing athletes. For Maan’s case, she says that the takeaways got better as she grew with Alaska. “At first it was all about being a team sport and playing together,” she fondly remembers. “But as we got older, [the AFC] taught us about healthy nutrition, good sportsmanship, accepting defeat, and embracing championships.”

 

A NEVER-ENDING LEGACY

With 23 successful years under its belt, the AFC is showing no signs of slowing down. Gold Jacinto, who played every year since she was in the fifth grade ‘til her college years knows very well of that. “The AFC is progressing forward and is helping push the sport even better,” says Jacinto.

 

Now, way past her days playing in school colors – Gold still finds her way back to the AFC.

 

She also expressed how sentimental the AFC is to her, “It would be so drastic that if one year, Alaska would not be there to hold this tournament. The AFC has been a big part of our football life since we were just 13 years old – it was definitely the beginning of our careers then. Right now, it’s great that these young players have something grand as this to look forward to.”

Jacinto’s only wish, as is for many other athletes – is to have the AFC each year forever. “It’s been the gold standard for tournaments in terms of creating an avenue for kids to develop their skills and values through football.”

 

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