MANILA, Philippines — After he hung up his football boots, former national player Anton del Rosario was just playing seven-a-side football at the Manila Polo Club with former teammates and friends.“To keep in shape” is how he put it. But when you love the sport, it is hard to stay away.
A desire to continue the format in a more consistent and competitive manner gave del Rosario pause and the eventual idea to organize a league.
“That’s how it was born,” succinctly put the former Azkals star defender.
Today the 7s — as the league is called — will be launched in Brunei, and in the Bay Area and the San Mateo area of California this July.
The Philippines, which has played host to del Rosario’s the 7s having been played in Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, and Davao with several hundred teams participating, is on hold owing to the ongoing pandemic that doesn’t look to get better any time soon domestically.
Nevertheless, it is full steam ahead for the 7s.
“We were planning on going international in April of 2020 but the pandemic happened,” explained del Rosario. “A year later with other countries successfully beating back the COVID-19 virus,I got on the phone with (7s partner) Faezal Murni and we’re kicking off in July in Brunei to get things going.”
"Kicked off" is an understatement. Over at Brunei, Murani shared quite an interesting story.
"Because we have been deprived of football for the past year, we only got the clearance to operate last March 9. We got the clearance at 3 p.m. and kicked off that evening at 7 p.m. and the place was full. We kicked off right away. And we operate every night except for Thursdays and it has been full. The demand is still there,” he said.
Del Rosario’s longtime teammate in the national team as well as in Loyola, James Younghusband, will help out in organizing the Los Angeles side of the competition within a week or so.
“The idea for the 7s — here in the Philippines — is to start with the community prior to professional setups to make it sustainable.These leagues are about building its bases with fans and players.Our motto is ‘Opportunity, Unity and Community’ where we create the opportunity to foster unity and community. We’ve done that with the Kampeon Cup with Davao, Cebu and Bacolod, which sent all-star teams to Manila. Two years ago, Cebu beat Manila in the finals,” said del Rosario.
Growing up in the United States, del Rosario was all too familiar with there not being enough opportunities to play at the top level. “A league like the 7s gives people a chance to play and who knows — to be discovered — and to give back to their community.”
After the respective league in the Bay Area and the Peninsula, their respective all-star squads will engage in the Battle of the Bay Area and ditto for the LA-based squads.
“And eventually, we will have the Battle for California,” summed up del Rosario of the US-based competition, which for now is confined to the Golden State.
Among del Rosario’s partners in turning the 7s into a global force are Younghusband, Murni, former college teammate at Notre Dame de Namur University in the US, Gabe Cienfuegos, and Mike Sharabi.
Shared Younghusband, “The 7s has so much potential. I see the numbers increasing in the long run. It is something I am excited for. I see this as a way to develop football also in the Philippines.”
“Locally, if we can find a talent here then maybe we can offer that person a contract to play in Maharlika FC in the next season of the PFL,” added Anton.
Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com