The First-Ever Football Match in the Philippines

Have you ever wondered what went on the first ever football match in the Philippines?

The Bohemian Sporting Club became the most dominant club of that time
 
 
There was a time when football was the centerpiece of the sporting culture as far as the elites, ilustrados, and extranjeros (foreign expatriates and colonial officials) are concerned. The Filipinos have embraced foreign sports that they can cheer and love as their own.

We all know that football is a global game and it was this sport that took root first even before the Thomasites introduced the physical education system that brought in America's favorite sports - baseball and basketball. It was the latter that eventually surpassed the gains made by football. But we're not talking about the full history of the beautiful game as I already covered it in one of my articles.

If a football clasico defines historic rivalries of top football clubs throughout the world, whether its Real Madrid-Barcelona, Boca Juniors-River Plate, or Persija-Persib, we probably have missed out a long history of rivalries in football clubs that no longer exist. The

The date was October 15, 1907 and the place was the Manila Carnival Grounds. What happened there?

The first-ever football match watched by thousands of spectators, including Governor General (future US president) William Howard Taft. It coincided with the establishment of the first Philippine Assembly. By this time, the Philippines has transitioned to a civilian administration. All the fanfare and spectacle were actually focused on the socio-political programs. The venue that would become the Manila Carnival Grounds would eventually hosted the annual beauty pageant a year later. It would have become an important part of the social life of the elites and hosting a football game is just a sideshow to the extravagant festivities of the time.

A future US president was in the stand

It's difficult to find news articles and documents that would provide a full story of what happened that day. One thing is for sure is that there were six football clubs (including the Manila Jockey Club, the Manila Sporting Club, the Paris Club, and the Sandow Athletic Club) that already existed prior to that historic official match. Of course, games were already played prior to that date but may have been on "closed doors" as only from a certain class were permitted to play and watch their games.
 
The Manila Carnival Grounds was more like a makeshift venue than a permanent one

The iconic elephant brings you in to the action

I can understand why there is that certain nostalgia with the old Wembley by some English football fans. If we had this football venue hosting football games up to this day, we would have transformed it to our own version of Wembley with its own mythic status.

As for the game, it was Sandow Athletic Club that won the match and Governor Taft personally donated the trophy to them as the first-ever Philippine champion even though the official champions were recognized starting in 1911 with the Bohemian Sport Club emerging as the most dominant football club in the early years of Philippine football.

By the turn of the century, there is a growing popularity of physical fitness in Europe and United States as gymnastics and bodybuilding became widely known thanks to German athlete Eugen Sandow. It's not a surprise that a gym club would have been established by expatriates as soon as the Americans were in charge. Unfortunately, these clubs were probably reserved for foreigners and some wealthy local mestizo elites. In fact, there were so-called "interracial games" as part of the sideshows at the Manila Carnival Grounds wherein indigenous participants were forced to play to show the white supremacy of Americans over the Filipinos.

The first football match may have been lost in time but the faded memories and accounts should serve as a reminder as how far we have reached since then. Football may still have to take foothold in the hearts and minds of every Filipino. We have to start somewhere and one thing is building our own football culture by fully understanding the lessons of history - both the glorious good old days and the shameful past.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The First-Ever Football Match in the Philippines
The First-Ever Football Match in the Philippines
Have you ever wondered what went on the first ever football match in the Philippines?
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