The streets of the metro are a cold and cruel place to call home. Yet, these kids do. These kids wake up each morning not because they need to get ready for school, but because their stomachs have been growling for days and they need to scavenge for food. You see them loitering all around the dirty, wild and lost with no direction.
Where most people would consider them lost causes and shake their heads before turning away, seasoned football player Peter Amores instead chose to extend his hand, and give these impoverished children a reason to hold their heads up high. Through the introduction of his Football sa Kalye (FutKal) program in 2008, these kids have been kicking with a renewed purpose in life.
Amores saw something in these kids that the majority of people could not – potential. Knowing that these kids had the rest of their lives ahead of them, Amores wanted to help and guide them the best way he knew how – by teaching them how to play football.
To that end, Amores, along with a team of volunteers, began organizing clinics, camps and tournaments for their FutKalero initiative. A sport where discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship and respect are essential, Amores believed that football could be a wholesome activity for the kids to enjoy while imbibing concepts and values that could serve them later in life. FutKal would become their sanctuary, a program to show them that their future was as bright as they wanted it to be. Furthermore, FutKal would help them out academically, as sponsors donated scholarships as investments towards the children’s futures.
In the weeks and months that followed, something peculiar began to happen in the neighborhood where Futkal had been introduced: kids were no longer running in the streets because they had done something bad; they were running to score goals. They were no longer hurling curses at their enemies or at innocent passersby; they were shouting words of encouragement at their teammates. Football had arrived in the slums.
Before long, Amores was taking his Futkal program on the road, travelling from city to city, gathering group after group to share his love for Football with. In helping them to realize their potential, Amores was initiating an incredible transformation that saw formerly directionless drifters attain a sense of purpose, camaraderie, and self-worth fuelled by dreams of football stardom.
Today, one of the very first FutKaleros, Tondo’s Mark Dennis Balbin, is continuing the work that Amores started. Balbin is not just looking to continue the legacy of FutKal in the Philippines – he is living it.
“Life is similar to football, if you give up, you will lose,” says Balbin. “We try to let them understand that the discipline in football can be applied in life, not just score goals but also achieve life goals.”