By Celest R. Flores (INQUIRER.net)
MANILA, Philippines – After a hot streak, Team Philippines hit a wall of football power countries in the 2011 Homeless World Cup in Paris, France.
In the battle for the City Cup—the trophy stage for the 17th to 24th position, the Philippines suffered two more blows Saturday against Italy, 3-7, and Austria 4-8, nearing the close of the annual street football competition aiming to change lives through every goal.
The Philippines also took a beating from three European powerhouse countries and a South American dynasty as it yielded to Poland, 1-10, and Scotland, 2-7, last Thursday and relented to Portugal, 4-6, and Brazil, 1-9, Friday.
Czech Republic and the Philippines, both who did not get wins in the quarters and semis, will clash Sunday to determine who will go home as the 23rd and the 24th finisher, while United States and Denmark dispute the City Cup trophy.
But even as the squad—beefed up by eight underprivileged yet talented boys discovered from around the Philippines who were all united for the love of the game—failed to advance to the Homeless World Cup final, they already achieved more than what they did last year.
Last year’s team Philippines – a different cast from this year – bagged the Host Cup for a 25th place finish in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.
Co-skipper Janrick Soriano (Negros Occidental) and Jeffrey Guelas (Manila) lead this year’s delegation, who came to be known as the crowd darlings among the 48 participating countries as the boys were cheered on by hundreds of Filipinos at the event Arena shadowed by the Eiffel Tower.
Berth Anthony Sienes (Manila Boys Town), Jeffrey De Castro (Cainta, Rizal), Ricardo Padilla Jr. (Pangasinan), Aljohn Matulac (Estancia, Iloilo), John “Putot” Celiz (Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo) and Michael Rojo (Negros Occidental) complete the Homeless World Cup team, mentored by coach Rudy Del Rosario.
Meanwhile, Mexico, who downed Brazil in the semis, 5-1, booked a seat in the Homeless World Cup title match Sunday and will face Scotland, who eked out a 5-3 victory over Kenya.