ONE need not look far to see the fruits of the grassroots development of the Philippine Football Federation under the leadership of Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, according to Stallion FC coach Ernie Nierras.
“In 10 years, what has the (PFF) grassroots program done since Nonong Araneta took over? It has produced the National Under-22 squad,” Nierras, a deputy coach of the side competing in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, pointed out.
“If you track where these local players came from, it came from that (Kasibulan) program,” added the outspoken mentor, who has been in the local football scene since 2005 when he served as the coach of the national women’s football squad in the 2005 SEA Games.
With the support of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, the Kasibulan program was launched early in the first term of Araneta, gaining several citations from the Asian Football Conference.
The Kasibulan national grassroots officer is Aquilino Pastoral III, who has allied himself with Negros Oriental Football Association president Ricky Yanzon who is running against Araneta for the PFF presidency today during the PFF congress at the Century Park Sheraton Hotel.
Yanzon, who is also the PFF grassroots development committee chairman, has claimed that grassroots development suffered under Araneta’s term.
There are 13 homegrown talents in the current U-22 squad, including senior Azkals defender Amani Aguinaldo, who comes from Davao, and UAAP MVP and striker Harvey Gayoso, Nierras said.
“Go back 10 years and figure out where these kids came from and they are likely to start from there. These are the players that the PFF sent to Spain, England and Italy (for training camps),” he added.
Nierras also cited the PFF’s annual Festival of Football nationwide, which is where majority of the players from the national under-14 and under-16 girls’ squads have come from.
“These players are the products of these football festivals,” Nierras said. “So what is Ricky talking about?”
Nierras said the grassroots program is just one aspect of the PFF’s thrusts “because there is also coaches education, referees and administration. You are talking a lot of different things.”
He added that Yanzon has failed to come out with any specific platform for Philippine football.
“All that he (Yanzon) wants is ‘Football para sa Lahat.’ But what is that? There are no specifics and mere generalities,” he said.