I was born in the land of La Paz batchoy and the Pancit Molo. A city where, before dining, residents utter the lines, “kaon ta-e!” “kaon ta bala” or “kaon ta anay!”
Iloilo City, it’s named, and, as a child, I have fond memories of lighting up fireworks on Dec. 31 or trekking on a bike during the month of April.
These recollections flashed before my mind when, while scanning through the online news yesterday, my eyes widened and my smile reached ear-to-ear when I read this The Philippine Star title: Ilonggos break soccer marathon record.
By “record,” I don’t mean local, provincial or national. How about the Guinness World of Records?
Here’s the story: 30 kms. away from Iloilo City is a small town named Barotac Nuevo. Mention the word “Barotac” to any football aficionado and you’ll hear tales proclaiming the town as one of RP’s football capitals; a community where soccer is worshipped and dribbled by students, teachers, barangay tanods, the mayor—by everyone.
Barotac is attempting to rewrite the Guinness record books with this idea conceptualized by RP’s 1986 Mr. Football recipient, Elmer Bedia. The idea is simple—yet the task gargantuan: Two soccer teams would play and play and play until they break the “nonstop soccer-playing” record of 31 hours by a pair of teams from Australia.
Last Friday, Jan. 16, the quest began: 18 players from the Barotac Nuevo Comprehensive National High School (BNCNHS) stood
on the field to face another 18 strikers from the Iloilo State College of Fisheries (ISCOF).
The referee blew the whistle at 8:40 a.m. as the two teams dribbled, passed, scored, headed the ball, sprinted across the grass, and the goalie dove for a save. In the end, at 7:30 p.m. the day after, Saturday, the referee blew the final long whistle. Game over.
How long did the two squads play? 35 hours, 20 minutes. Wow.
Fronting a crowd that numbered 3,000 during peak times at the Barotac Nuevo Intl. Field, would you believe that, when the marathon ended, Team ISCOF defeated the BNCNHS ballers by the narrowest of margins, 136-133.
Yes, like an NBA score, their score stood at 136 goals vs. 133 goals. What a feat of the feet!
According to Duffie Botavara, the general secretary of the Barotac Nuevo FC and the Iloilo Football Association, they had twin Guinness Record goals: apart from playing the longest non-stop football action ever—they also aimed to record the most number of games played continuously.
That’s 19 games (at 45 minutes each) played one after the other after the other after the other…. Aided by nine referees that worked in three shifts.
From the Phil. Daily Inquirer story by Nestor P. Burgos Jr., “Football record set in Visayas: Match played for 35 hrs on field,” Duffie Botavara explained that, because of the game’s duration, they slightly modified the rules and a “floating substitution” format was adopted. “This allowed the unlimited substitution of players who returned to the game even after they have been substituted,” said the Inquirer story. “Football regulations allow only two substitutions per game and players who have been replaced cannot return to the game.”
“’We ensured that at any given time, nine to 10 players from each team were on the field while the others rested,’ said Botavara. The players did not sleep and only rested at the players’ quarters where they also ate.”
“The Barotac Nuevo school is composed of players 17 years old and below while the Iloilo fishery school players belonged to the collegiate division. Each team had a member of the national team,’ said Botavara.”
What an ambitious and toilsome act. The next step is to get the Guinness World Records—who had no official representative to watch the event—to certify the achievement. The organizers have videotaped the entire stunt, from start to finish, and, after submitting the evidence, hope to see the name “Barotac” as world-record holders.
Which leaves me to conclude: After 35-plus hours of football, the players, I’m sure, whispered to their coaches one final request: Kaon ta bala batchoy!