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Philippine Football’s Housing Question: Of Stadium Development and Demolition Issues

Our road to possible World Cup glory really starts on July 3 when we take on Sri Lanka in a qualifier match on home soil in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC). This much awaited game for the Manileno fan base of the revamped Azkals continuous to reach a certain level of hype in the metro especially over the ticket prices, which in an economy like ours can determine a lot in terms of attendance and success of tangible and participative support. According to the news reports, tickets for the game will be priced at P200, P300, P2,000 and P3,000, ($5, $7, $46 and $69) a big leap from the prices at Panaad, Bacolod which even gave away a large number of free tickets. Ticket prices are only one side of the coin, it is important to see what this means in terms of the development of football as played in our own stadiums. This is invariably connected to the concept of modernization yet it takes place in sports, something that is somewhat problematic especially concerning the bleak trend of urbanization currently going on.

The Housing Question

Engels’ famous book takes on this topic by saying that fundamentally the contradiction on this matter is between the city’s urbanization and the development of the countryside. In other words, in this context it means the genuine development for both sides considering the historical tendencies of both, that being the concentration in cities and the exploitative backwardness of most provinces. Yet how do we house big football games? Moreover what does this imply and bring into play in terms of football development? While the provinces hold the strongholds of domestic support for football, the entire country is still a long way from having the proper leagues and systems in place for national development. Manila on the other hand still holds the promise of commercial success.

Many have already pointed out that these gargantuan ticket prices defeat the purpose of both popularizing and familiarizing people with football, especially the joys of live football. Ryan Fenix notes that people may be doubtful for the Sri Lanka game, taking into account if many will settle for the bleachers? Of course to some extent it is expected that with the increasing hype of local football especially with the Azkals, there will always be someone or some people who will capitalize on it. San Miguel attempted to but backed out of sponsorship for the upcoming game while Smart is already on the bandwagon. Eventually this translates into profiteering over accessibility. The problem is at what cost? Manila is the perfect stage to get a real start on the profiteering game which has a concentration of people, capital and hence profit. A hefty profit from this game can mean a continuation of the “big games” housed in Manila, possibly creating a Manila-centric approach to big live games, discounting both the local talents and facilities elsewhere and the inherent grassroots nature of football as evidenced by Iloilo and Bacolod. This treatment of football as differing from the city to the countryside reflects what the Housing Question points out, in that it seeks to maintain the metro as a bastion for capital accumulation and the countryside as excluded from this brand of “modernity” when in truth, the development of football is much more advanced in the countryside. As in many things, the basic sectors of society have been the determinant of advancement and also like many other things, the ruling elite refuses to recognize this. The game in RMSC is in itself not a bad thing, but we should be wary of the predisposition both the state and corporations can take in handling the situation of football for all especially with these ticket prices which are generally not a good sign.

Not a good sign

I remember the demolitions incurred by the construction of massive stadiums for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, many urban poor citizens were displaced in China, of course locally we are increasingly becoming no stranger to this phenomenon. Last May 23, there was another attempt at illegal demolition against the residents of Barangay Corazon de Jesus by the city government of San Juan. The San Juan government wants to put up a New City Hall on the site that is 1.6 hectares and houses close to a thousand families. It was already deemed illegal a few months ago since a DILG order stated that the site was not to be demolished. The enforced relocation program to Montalban did not sit well with residents, an article in Pinoy Weekly interviewed a woman as saying:

“Kamatayan ang katumbas ng pag-relocate sa Montalban,” ayon kay Liza Fariscal, miyembro ng Samana na may 50 taon nang naninirahan sa Brgy. Corazon de Jesus. “Alam namin na walang kabuhayan doon. Substandard ang mga bahay, walang tubig na malinis, at ang kuryente ay generator na ilang oras lang binubuksan.”

In other words, the people of Corazon de Jesus feel that relocation to the middle of nowhere in Montalban is like a death sentence, citing no water, electricity, services and livelihood to be found in the area of which they are being forced to settle in.

    *Former President Erap Estrada even physically hit an activist in his anger at those who thwarted the plans of the city he loved

    The residents protested with their barricades and eventually the demolition teams gave up. Their collective action while localized is not an isolated case as in areas like Pangarap Village, North Caloocan residents also prepare for the violence and again illegal demolition of the Carmel Development Inc. Owned by the Araneta family. While the dispute over land is still tied up in court the CDI is already on the move terrorizing the residents with private armies. The dispute reached its boiling point when people were shot last April 28 by angered mercenaries of CDI. Since then protests have been stepped up chasing away any meddling elements of the CDI.

    These are only a few of the many cases of illegal demolition of urban poor areas who have no consideration for the livelihood and actual lives of the residents, cases that have increased since the instalment of the Aquino regime.

    I mention these issues as a precedent of what is eventually to spread in every imaginable urbanization project that both corporations and the state have to offer. Ticket prices are one side of the issue, a legitimate one that should raise protests from fans. Recently Arsenal FC of North London raised ticket prices by 6% prompting the biggest boycott of the clubs history leaving a significant part of the Emirates Stadium empty during games. Football as played in stadiums requires stadiums themselves and as of now we only have two that can accommodate international games. Do we want more? Of course, however this aspect of development, albeit of facilities should not coincide with the demolition of urban poor communities. If so, I wouldn’t be caught dead watching a game in a stadium erected on such grounds.

    The housing question has come to Philippine football, particularly the next phase is stadium development and greater capital accumulation and Manila seems to be a likely target. Though if not the provinces are not excluded from the resulting damage that urbanization is bringing to poor communities.

    While the last game in Panaad seemed a fitting homage to the players and supporters who kept football alive in the country we are entering uncharted yet somewhat inevitable territory. I have made no definite predictions, yet I must assert that these things are possible with the current inclinations of the forces moving behind the games and teams. Towering ticket prices and demolition teams all around, both the infrastructure and massive culture of support remain questionable with these developments. Meaning it’s looking like going down a road which is increasingly capitalist and the implosion of football in regard to the housing question or the contradiction between city and countryside is a matter of approaching football like a service to the people, something that is acceptable for it to self-sustaining and just.


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