|A screenshot of football.cebunetwork.com showing a photo of Real Madrid goalkeeper Eduardo Teus López-Navarro and the Philippine flag at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Photo by AFC women's committee member Cristina Ramos
MANILA, Philippines - Before the exploits of former Chelsea youth players Phil and James Younghusband and Neil Etheridge for the Philippine Azkals made headlines, Filipinos were already making their mark for top European football teams, particularly with Spanish giants and archrivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Philippines, which was under Spanish colonial rule for more than 300 years, had football as a major sport. When the Americans came, basketball became dominant and replaced Filipinos' interest in the beautiful game.
Barca's all-time top goalscorer
Many Filipino football aficionados are aware of Paulino Alcantara, who is arguably the country's best player of the sport in history.
Alcantara, who was born in Iloilo in 1896, played for Catalan side Barcelona FC from 1912 to 1927.
He remains as the highest goal scorer in the club's history with 357 goals in 357 games.
Alcantara also made his Barca debut at the age of 15, and is the youngest player to play or score for the club.
"His ability to hit the most powerful of shots crossed frontiers on the 30th April 1922 when, in a game between Spain and France, he hit a shot so hard that it ripped right through the net. For many years after, children from Barcelona would recall that moment and would wish to do the same as the man from the Philippines," Barcelona's official website says.
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 in international football.
Alcantara also won 2 titles for the Bohemian Sporting Club in the Philippines Championship in 1917 and 1918.
At age 31, Alcantara retired in 1927 to become a doctor. He also later served in Barcelona's board of directors from 1931 to 1934.
Real Madrid shotstopper
While "El Romperedes" (The Net Breaker) was terrorizing Barcelona's opponents, another Filipino was manning the goal for archrivals Real Madrid.
Eduardo Teus López-Navarro, or simply Teus, was goalkeeper for Los Merengues from 1913 to 1918.
He won 7 titles with Real Madrid, including a Copa del Rey (King's Cup).
A photo on Real Madrid's website shows Teus and the Copa del Rey winners.
Teus, who was born in Manila in 1896, also served as head coach of La Furia Roja -- the Spanish national team -- from 1941 to 1942.
Alcantara and Teus faced each other twice in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey.
The striker won the first clash, 2-1, in favor of Barcelona. The goalkeeper emerged victorious in the second encounter, 4-2, in favor of Real Madrid, according to Filipinofooties.
Teus won a total of 6 Campeonatos Regionales Partidos and a Copa del Rey with Real Madrid.
The most emotionally moving photo of Teus that can be found on the Internet has to be the Filipino-Spaniard and the Philippine national flag during an exhibit at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu.
The photograph, submitted by Asian Football Confederation women's committee member Cristina Ramos to Cebu Football, shows a photo of Teus and the flag alongside French legendary midfielder Zinedine Zidane and other foreign players who have suited up for Los Blancos.
Other Pinoys in the Spanish top flight
Aside from Alcantara and Teus, other Filipinos also saw action for Barcelona, Real Madrid, and several teams in the Spanish football league.
Barça had 3 Pinoy players: Alcantara, Manuel Amechazurra, and Juan Garchitorena, while Real Madrid had Teus and Kaimo, said lawyer and football enthusiast Jorenz Tañada.
Other Filipinos who played in the La Liga include Samar-born Julio Uriarte García, a defender for Zaragoza from 1939 to 1943; Negros Occidental-born Gregorio Amestoy Querejeta, who was a midfielder for Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid, and Gimnastic de Tarragona from 1939 to 1948, Manileño Marcelino Galatians, who saw action for Real Sociedad San Sebastian and Atletico Madrid; and Camarines Sur native Ignacio Larrauri, who was a striker for Athletic de Bilbao from 1941 to 1942, according to Filipinofooties.