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The Developing American Football League in the Philippines

Surprised? Yes, the sport does exist outside the United States and in the Philippines of all places. This is not your typical neighborhood league, however. It is a full-fledged association comprised of real teams and actual owners. The organization was inaugurated in 2016 and is called the Philippine-American Football League (PABL). Read on to find out more about it.

Brief background

The PABL originated from the former American Tackle Football Federation of the Philippines (ATFFP). It had five teams in its first season and has since grown to add one more. Now on its third year, the PABL still has an uphill battle to climb despite the interest that has built up around it. The country’s main sport is basketball and those who are into football mainly follow what Americans know as soccer. Most if not all of the games are also held in Metro Manila, which limits its exposure even further.

Its current commissioner and Chief Executive Officer is Demosthenes Juanatas, Jr. He has been actively working to gain national recognition for the sport. There have been initiatives to have the PABL accredited by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). So far, it has officially partnered up with ESPN5 for its media coverage. Their games can now be viewed through its official YouTube channel.

Its current roster of teams are:

  • Wolves (current champion)

  • Rebels

  • Datu

  • Warriors

  • Juggernauts

  • Cavemen

How it stacks up

Without a doubt, the National Football League (NFL) is so many levels above the PABL. It will take a while before the latter can even be on par with Division 1 American college teams. There is no dedicated football stadium or even an established training program for interested players. It does, however, have a couple of sponsors and even charges admission fees for its games.

The game is very much in its infancy stages in the Philippines. It currently implements a single round-robin format, with the two top teams going up against each other in the finals. This is a far cry from the NFL which has 32 teams and has up to 256 games in its regular season alone. It will eventually culminate in the Superbowl, the most-watched sporting event in the United States.

Do foreigners get to play?

Its lack of PSC accreditation makes it easier for anyone to come and join the PABL. There is still much required in terms of regulations, among other things. This will however eventually come sooner or later. One of the requirements is to successfully hold at least two football seasons and is something the PABL has already accomplished. Its predecessor, the ATFFP was recognized by the PSC which counted it among its list of National Sports Associations (NSA).

Foreigners do get to play. They reportedly come from the United States, other Asian countries and even some European nations such as Poland. None however have professional status. Regardless, any knowledge that can be shared to enrich the sport in the Philippines will definitely be appreciated.

Get into it

There are more and more local players getting into the sport. It is not yet on a professional level as anyone can literally walk-in and try out for a team. This makes it a great opportunity for foreigners to come in and get involved in the growth of American football in the Philippines. Juanatas, Jr. himself explained what happens with newcomers, “You practice, you learn the rules, you learn the fundamentals and you get better day by day.”

If you are into American football and happen to be visiting the Philippines soon, try dropping by the Blue Pitch, Circuit Makati field. There will be games running every Saturday night from September 1 to October 27, 2018. Those who can share their knowledge in the sport can definitely make a positive impact not only on the PABL but with interested beginners as well. Visit their website to know more.

Angelo Tan - Writing Correspondent: Quezon City, Philippines


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