The Legend of El Romperredes

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2 years ago

In 2006, when the Younghusband brothers were discovered by a video gamer and also a fan of the sport, where both of their names show up in Football Manager - a simulator where you manage your club and face off with other clubs in prestigious tournaments like in the world of Football.

As both brothers were eligible and enlisted to play for our national team they rose to stardom. Fast forward to 2010, when the Azkals beat Vietnam’s Golden Dragons during the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 until they were defeated by Indonesia. Years later, the Azkals participated and won in numerous tournaments for the past 11 years.

Before their cinderella run, the discoveries of homegrown talent both local & international, and of becoming a hoop nation let’s travel back before the end of the 19th Century, a spark that lit the fire of a revolution against our colonial masters. One man was destined for greatness and left a mark for the love of the beautiful game.

Paulino Alcántara y Riestrá

Alcántara wearing his Barça kit. Color Restoration Image by Kulay

Born in Concepcion, Iloilo, Philippines on October 7, 1896 - the year when the Filipino Revolution started. His father was a Spanish Military Officer and to an Ilongga mother. In 1899, during the Filipino-American War, the Alcántara Family moved out of the country to Barcelona, Spain. Then soon discovered his passion for Football.

Discovered by Joan Gamper (known as Hans Max Gamper-Haessig), founder of FC Barcelona. Alcántara was a natural striker. Amazed by his talents, he was brought over to the club. You wouldn’t believe at what age did he start to play. He was 15 years old when he started to play for Barça.

I wonder what we were doing when we're 15 years old? Most of us are studying or dropped out of school. Whatever would be our situation at that time, Alcántara made it to the big leagues at such a young age, becoming the youngest player to play for a European club.

Up to this day, no one has beaten Alcántara’s record except for the number of goals in each of his game appearances which is already beaten by one of the world’s most popular players, which I’ll tell you later in a bit.

Not only of becoming the youngest player, but also the First Asian player to play for a European club. His first appearance against Catala SC scoring his first 3 goals, including a hat trick, ended with a 9 - nil victory for Barça.

Yes, it was a good start for the young Alcántara, but he was sent back by his parents to his birthplace in 1916. Aside from Football, he was a medical student and played for Bohemian Sporting Club - one of the first clubs established in Manila which he left a mark in Filipino Football.

Unstoppable Alcántara

BSC won 1st Place in the Philippines Championships in 1917 and 1918. Until he was discovered and selected to play for the national team in 1917 of which became one of sports history’s biggest wins and a major upset for the opposing side of the team.

On May 10, 1917. It was the Far Eastern Games held in Shibaura Grounds, Tokyo, Japan. The hosts against the visiting team, our national team. Alcántara and the rest of his teammates destroyed the Japanese with a 15 - 2 victory. It was the country's best win, and Japan's greatest defeats.

It would not be possible without Alcántara for this epic moment, a day after they faced the Republic of China, but the match was abandoned after China scored a penalty kick making it 3 - nil when one of our goalkeepers punched the penalty taker which sparked a brawl from both teams in the 55th Minute.

China won 1st Place with 4 points, followed by the Philippines in 2nd Place with 2 points, and Japan in 3rd Place with nil points. The Filipinos now have a star player in the making, while FC Barcelona felt his absence the moment he left the club, and they haven't won a single major trophy yet.

His parents want him to stay in the Philippines and finish his studies of becoming a doctor, while the club pleads for him to return for Barça. After the tournament, he contracted Malaria but he refused to take any medication unless with the approval of his parents to have him returned to Barcelona.

He was stubborn, but unstoppable for him to return for his club. The following year in 1918, Alcántara returns to Spain.

The Legend of El Romperredes

Alcántara in action

After leaving the Philippines, Alcántara is now playing better than ever. During the match between Barça and Real Sociedad on April 19, 1919, Alcántara made a powerful kick to the ball, when a policeman got in the way forcing the ball to hit the officer, he flew off in mid-air as the officer and the ball hit at the back of the net.

The goal was known as the police goal, it became one of the most memorable moments in the history of Football. Alcántara paved the way as the club won the Copa del Rey and the Campionet de Catalunya. This marked the beginning of the club's first golden era as they dominate both tournaments.

Aside from playing with FC Barcelona, Alcántara served for 3 different countries: the Catalans in 1915, the Philippines in 1917, until he was selected to play for Spain in 1920, at that same year, he was about to finish his final exams as a licensed doctor. However, he was able to balance both of his passions.

On October 7, 1925, Alcántara was celebrating his 25th Birthday making his first debut for the Spanish national team. They went against Belgium and scored 2 goals making it a 2 - nil victory for La Roja.

In 1922, there was a match between Spain and France. Alcántara made a powerful kick then goes straight at the net when it broke out, and earned the nickname El Romperredes / Trencaxavxes (translates to The Netbreaker).

After serving 3 countries while dominating the Copa del Rey and the Campionet de Catalunya. Alcántara hanged his boots in 1927 to pursue his medical profession. He retired at the age of 31, but that didn't stop him from becoming a doctor when he returned as the club's director from 1931 to 1934, and the head coach of La Roja in 1951.

Alcantara's legacy could be all about guts & glory, it's given that every personality would never escape controversy and their image left tainted as we can think of.

Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

From 1936 to 1939, Spain went to a civil war separating the country from the loyal Republicans to the left-leaning Popular Front Government of the 2nd Spanish Republic, along with anarchists, fascists, communists, and other groups. Alcántara served the Falange España - a Spanish Fascist political organization that ruled the country for over 40 years.

Alcántara was a Lieutenant of the Frecce Nere. A volunteer corps led by Francisco Franco, and Benito Mussolini. He served on the fronts of Guadalajara, Aragon, and Catalonia. After the war, he lived in Barcelona. Paulino Alcántara died on February 13, 1967, at the age of 67, and was buried at Les Corts cemetery beside Camp Nou.


Lionel Messi, wearing Alcántara's previous kit when he broke the record as the new top goalscorer in 2014.

Despite his controversial military service during the Spanish Civil War, his illustrious career as a professional football player left a big mark in the world of football, being the youngest player at the age of 15, and the first Asian to play for a European club.

His height, he was shorter than the other players, and this is a proven testament since we lack in height when it comes to Basketball. Despite his height, mix that with speed and his style of play it carried him from the top.

With his tenure at Barça, Alcántara appeared in 357 matches and scored 369 goals. In 2014, the record was broken by Lionel Messi when he faced Osasuna ending with 7 - nil, making it 371 goals as the new top goalscorer of the club.

In 2007, the Federacion Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) named Alcántara as the greatest Asian player of all time. Fast forward to 2018, our local football league - the Philippines Football League named the cup's tournament after his honor, the Copa Paulino Alcántara. And this year, he was now inducted to be part of the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame.

The Bohemian Sporting Club, the club that Alcántara previously played with was dissolved in the 1930s until it was revived by establishing first a school called the Bohemian Football School to honor the great El Romperredes, to gain the attention of the youth to learn and play football. Then the group decided to create a team and joined the Philam Life 7s Football League, a 7-a-side Football League based in McKinley Hills, Taguig.

Born within the spark of the Filipino Revolution, Alcántara was destined for greatness. From his first debut at an early age to a rising star of our nation and a force to be reckoned with becoming Barça's top goalscorer. His name will be remembered by Filipino fans, and the next generation of footballers who would bring honor to the 3 Stars and the Sun.

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