Barcelona, FIFA mark Filipino football legend's hat trick debut

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 25 2012 02:59 AM | Updated as of Feb 26 2012 01:53 AM


 
Iloilo native Paulino Alcantara is Barcelona's all-time top goalscorer with 369 goals in 357 matches. At age 15, he was also the youngest to score a goal for the club. FC Barcelona photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A 15-year-old boy once scored a hat trick in his debut for FC Barcelona, and the European football giant is remembering the Filipino prodigy's continuing legacy in the club exactly 100 years later.

Paulino Alcantara, who achieved the feat on February 25, 1912, would score a total of 369 goals in 357 games in a Barca shirt. 

Other Barcelona legends have come and gone, but no one has yet to break his goalscoring record and of being the youngest player ever to score for the team in an official match. 

Alcantara, who was named as FIFA's top Asian footballer of all time in 2007, has become the inspiration for the resurgence of football in the Philippines, according to Barcelona's official website.

"He still lives strong in the memory not just of Barça fans but also the Filipino population. Right now there is a huge campaign underway in the country to promote passion for the sport, and there is no better symbol or hero of the Philippines' footballing past than the legendary Paulino Alcantara," the website said.

As a member of the club's youth team, Alcantara stood out with his skill and goalscoring ability. "Despite his young age, the first team already had an eye on this prodigy," according to the website.

He made his Barcelona first team debut  in the Catalonian Championship at the old Carrer de la Indústria ground against Catala Sporting Club.

Alcantara scored 3 goals in their 9-0 victory over their opponents.

"Those were early days for the game, and there were only about a hundred people there to witness the incredible sight of this tiny child able to shoot the ball with such immense power," Manel Tomàs wrote on fcbarcelona.com.

Other Filipinos have made their mark for top European football teams including Barcelona archrival Real Madrid, but none with the same impact as the boy from Iloilo.

Trencaxarxes, the netbreaker


Alcantara was called Trencaxarxes, or the net-breaker, after one of his shots broke the net in a game he played for Spain.

The power of his shots also became apparent during a match against Real Sociedad on April 13, 1919, according to Barcelona's records.

"Alcántara scored what has gone down in history as the 'police goal.' A powerful shot from the Filipino was heading straight for the goal when a stray policeman somehow got in the way of the ball," the club said.

The ball and policeman ended up in the back of the net.

"An extraordinarily skinny looking player on the outside was built like a train within, and his ability to strike the ball hard astounded everyone that ever saw him play," the club said. "Looking so appealing with his white handkerchief always hanging out of his shorts, he became the first major media figure in FC Barcelona history."

FIFA on Saturday praised Barca's Filipino phenomenon, and credited him for being the spark behind the club's first golden era.

"Alcantara was still just 19 when, having helped his Catalan employers win the Copa del Rey and two Campionat de Catalunyas, he returned for a two-year stint in his homeland, adding a couple of Filipino championship medals to his collection. Barça, however, emerged empty-handed from each of the seasons in which he was missing, and it was only when Alcantara was lured back that the club’s first truly golden era began," the world football body said. 

Alcantara, who won 15 titles for the Blaugrana, also saw action for the Philippines in the 1917 Far Eastern Games, helping the Nationals bring home a silver medal.

The Philippines defeated Japan 15–2 in the Games, the country's biggest win yet in international football.

Alcantara also won 2 titles for the Bohemian Sporting Club in the Philippines Championship in 1917 and 1918.

Alcantara retired at the age of 31 in 1927 and pursued his career in medicine full time.

He later served in Barcelona's board of directors from 1931 to 1934.

He died in Barcelona in 1964 and was buried at the Les Corts cemetery next to Camp Nou.

"This supreme striker was also one of the first players to write memoirs about his football career, and a statue of him stands to this day outside the headquarters of the Philippine Football Federation," FIFA said. "A century may have passed since his glorious debut, but Alcantara - one of the beautiful game’s early greats – remains well worth remembering."