Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Legend of "El Romperedes"

Paulino Alcántara
Since the Philippine national footballers are finally getting some attentions they deserves (thanks to their impressive showing in the AFF Suzuki Cup), I would like to introduce to all new Filipino football converts: Paulino Reistrá Alcántara. [This entry was from my old defunct blog.]

Who is Paulino Alcántara?

Paulino Alcántara was a footballer, in fact, he is the greatest Filipino footballer (soccer player) of all time, and the first Filipino and Asian player ever to play football in Europe.

Alcántara was also one of the greatest players ever to play for Futbol Club Barcelona (F.C. Barcelona), one of the greatest football clubs in the world. At the age of 15, he was the youngest player ever to play for Barca’s First Team and was the all-time youngest scorer for the club. He ends his career as Barca’s all-time leading scorer and still is the holder of the 83 years old scoring record.

Of course, not many Filipinos know about his exploits and most people who knew about his success are not even base in the Philippines. In a country obsessed with basketball and a great producer of some of the best boxers, bowlers, billiard players in the world, Filipinos would prefer the likes of basketball legends Robert Jaworski, Alvin Patrimonio, and the NCC trio (Allan Caidic, Hector Calma and Samboy Lim), or boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, or bowling legend Paeng Nepomuceno or billiard legends Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco Bustamante than great footballers such as Alcántara and his modern contemporaries (Alfredo Razon Gonzalez, the Younghusband brothers, Neil Etheridge). Heck, even past sporting legends such as Carlos Loyzaga (basketball), Pancho Villa (boxing), Gabriel “Flash” Elorde (boxing), Felicisimo Ampon (tennis), Simeon Toribio (athletics) are long forgotten due to the lacks of sense in history by modern Filipinos. Footballers, on the other hand, are more revere not in the big cities but in the universities in Manila or in the provinces of Visayas and Mindanao (particularly Iloilo and Negros provinces).

Alcántara was born in Iloilo on October 7, 1896 to a Spanish father (his father served the Spanish Colonial Army in the Philippines) and a Filipino mother. In 1910, his family moved to Barcelona, Spain and there he briefly played for F.C. Galeno, the club formed by his classmates. He then joined the youth squad of F.C. Barcelona and started a career that many Filipinos are unaware of and many Spaniards revered to this day.

In 1912, Barca’s President (and founder) Joan Gamper signed him to the club’s First Team and made his senior début at the age of 15 on February 25, 1912 against Catalá SC in the Catalan Championship (Championat de Catalunya). F.C. Barcelona won 9-0, and Alcántara scored the first three goals of the game. Among his teammates during his first spell at the club were Francisco Bru, Jack Greenwell and Romà Forns. In his debut appearance, he achieved the distinctions of being the first Filipino and Asian player ever to play for a European club, the youngest Barca player ever to play professional football, and the youngest Barca player ever to score in first-grade football.

He debuted in the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey) on August 14, 1912 against Sabadell to mark the installation of a new set of floodlights at the Estadio de los Arlequinados. The match finished 8-2 to Barca with Alcántara grabbing a hat trick.

In his first four years (1912-1916), Alcántara went on to help the club win a Catalan Championship and Spanish Cup double in 1913 and the Catalan Championship in 1916. Before winning his second Catalan championship title, he was selected to play for the Catalan XI and went on to represent the Catalans five more times until 1924.

After the 1915-16 football season, Alcántara and his family decided to move back to the Philippines. There, he continued his studies in medicine and played football for Bohemians Sporting Club of Manila. He led his new club to two consecutive Philippine Football Federation Men’s Open Championship titles, from 1917 to 1918, and was selected to play for the Philippine national football team in the 1917 Far Eastern Games in Tokyo, Japan.

In the Far Eastern Games, he led the country to its biggest winning margin ever in international football, demolishing Japan, 15-2. Unfortunately, the team abandoned their match against China after a successful conversion of a controversial penalty awarded by the referee giving China a 3-0 advantage. As a result, the team settled for the silver medal. Alcántara also represented the Philippines as a table tennis player.

Alcántara: Barca's all-time leading scorer
In 1918, he returned to Spain and resumed his distinguished career with F.C. Barcelona. The new coach (and former teammate) Jack Greenwell introduced Alcántara to the team as a defender but fan protest forced Greenwell to return Alcántara to his natural position. He then led the team to another Catalan Championship title in 1919 but failed to win the Spanish Cup after losing 5-2 in the finals to Arenas Club de Getxo. His return marks the beginning of the club’s first golden reign in Spanish football.

In 1920, he was named team captain and led Barca to another Catalan Championship and Spanish Cup double with Alcántara scoring in a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilboa in the Cup finals. At the same year, Alcántara was selected to play for the Spanish national team in the Olympic Games but turn down the opportunity due to his educational commitment. In 1921, he led Barca to another Catalan Championship but failed to win the Spanish Cup. He was again selected to represent Spain in international football and he made his debut on October 7, 1921 at the age of 25 against Belgium and scored both goals in a 2-0 win. He became the first player from Barcelona born outside of Europe to represent Spain in international football.

In 1922, he led Barca to its third Catalan Championship and Spanish Cup double with Alcántara scoring twice in the Cup final 5-1 demolition of Real Unión. On April 30, 1922, Alcántara earned the moniker “El Romeperedes” (the net-breaker) after ripping the goal net with a thunderous strike from 35 yards out in an international match between Spain and France.

After a trophy-less season in 1923, he led Barca to another Catalan Championship in 1924 but failed to win the Spanish Cup. The next two years (1925 and 1926), he lead the club to a back-to-back Catalan Championship and Spanish Cup double with Alcántara scoring the winner in the 3-2 win over Atlético Madrid in the 1926 Cup final.

Alcántara: The First Filipino World Class Athlete
After winning his 10th Catalan Championship, Alcántara, at the age of 31, officially retired from the game on July 5, 1927 with the Spanish national team and F.C. Barcelona playing a testimonial game in his honor. He ended his career as the club’s all-time leading scorer with 357 goals in 357 games.

After his retirement, Alcántara was finally able to practice his profession as doctor but his retirement did not prevent him from helping his old club. From 1931 to 1934, he served as one of Barca’s Board of Directors and he coached/managed Spain’s national team in 1951. He died on February 13, 1964 in Barcelona, Spain.

Today, Filipinos admired modern-day sports legends, particularly the overpaid and sometimes overrated PBA players and the lack of knowledge over past achievements blinded them from following the footsteps of our country’s world-class athletes from the past. Philippines has produced some of the world’s greatest boxers, bowlers, and billiard players in history but before the great Pancho Villa or before the great Carlos Loyzaga or before the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde or way before the great Efren “Bata” Reyes and the great Manny Pacquiao there was Paulino Alcántara. A Filipino legend not just for the Philippines, not just for Spain, not just for Barca, but a legend of the greatest game in the world. He was truly the first Filipino world-class athlete, a legend of a sport that was long ignored by his own countrymen.

Awards and Achievements

Club Records (F.C. Barcelona) and Distinctions:
  • Career all-time record holder for the most goals scored by a player in first-grade football (357 goals in 357 games, in the seasons from 1912-27 (215 goals in friendlies, 5 in the Spanish Cup, 98 in the Catalan Championship, 35 in the Spanish Championship, 3 in the Pyrenees Cup and 1 in the Barcelona Cup).
  • 6th Career all-time record holder for the most goals in all competition, excluding friendlies (137 goals)
  • Youngest player ever to play for F.C. Barcelona First Team (15 years, 4 months and 18 days)
  • Youngest player ever to score for F.C. Barcelona in First-Grade Football (15 years, 4 months and 18 days)
  • First player from Barcelona born outside Europe to represent Spain in international football.
  • First Filipino and Asian football player ever to play in Europe 
  • Team Captain of F.C. Barcelona (1920-1927)

National Teams:
  • Catalan XI (1915-1924)
  • Philippine national football team (1917)
  • Spanish national football team (1921-1923)

Individual Achievements:
  • 2007 Philippine Football Federation Centennial Award for the Most Outstanding Player of the Pre-War Era

Team Achievements:

Catalan Championship (10 titles)
Spanish Cup (5 titles)
Philippine Football Federation National Men’s Open (2 titles)
Pyrenees Cup (1 title)

  • 1912-1913 Catalan champions
  • 1912-1913 Spanish Cup champions
  • 1913 Pyrenees Cup champions
  • 1915-1916 Catalan champions
  • 1917 Philippine Football Federation National Men’s Open champions
  • 1917 Far Eastern Games Football Championship (silver medal)
  • 1918 Philippine Football Federation National Men’s Open champions
  • 1918-1919 Catalan champions
  • 1918-1919 Spanish Cup finalists
  • 1919-1920 Catalan champions
  • 1919-1920 Spanish Cup champions
  • 1920-1921 Catalan champions
  • 1921-1922 Catalan champions
  • 1921-1922 Spanish Cup champions
  • 1923-1924 Catalan champions
  • 1924-1925 Catalan champions
  • 1924-1925 Spanish Cup champions
  • 1925-1926 Catalan champions
  • 1925-1926 Spanish Cup champions
  • 1926-1927 Catalan champions

There are other Filipino footballers (past and present) in Spain but unlike the great Paulino Alcántara, they never had a chance to don the Philippine tri-colors in international football. The most prominent Filipino in Spanish football after Alcántara was Eduardo Teus López Navarro (a.k.a. Teus). He was born in Manila and played for my favourite La Liga club Real Madrid from 1913 to 1918. Just like Alcántara, he went on to coach Spain’s national team.

Other Filipino footballers were Gregorio Amestoy Querejeta (played for Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid and Gimnastic de Tarragona, 1939-1948), Ignacio Larrauri Larrauri (played for Athletic Bilboa, 1941-1942), Julio Uriarte García (played for Zaragoza, 1939-1943), Julian De Guzman (played for Deportivo La Coruña, 2005-2009), and his brother Jonathan De Guzman (currently playing for Mallorca, 2010-present), Angel Aldeguer Guirado (currently playing for Deportivo Ronda, 2010-present) and his brother Juan Luis Guirado (currently playing for Racing Lermeño, 2010-present). Just recently, Angel Aldeguer Guirado became only the second Filipino player ever to came out of Spanish football and emulated Paulino Alcántara in donning the Philippine tri-colors in international football.

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  1. I'm a fan of Barca and I didn't know that they used to have a Pinoy player (and a great one at that). :)

    Btw, I am a graduating student from UP Manila and blog hopping led me here. :) I was wondering if you could answer a survey I made regarding Filipino bloggers. This is for my thesis and answering will only take you a couple of minutes.

    Confidentiality will be of utmost priority. Answering my survey will be very much appreciated. Thanks! :)

  2. hi,

    I tried the survey.. I dunno if it was successful though... and good luck with the survey :)


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