Football great Zico impressed by Pinoy's passion for the Beautiful game

MANILA, Philippines – Zico, one of the most accomplished players in the history of world football, has come to the Philippines. While it was a whirlwind trip, the visit has left a strong impression on the Brazilian.

"I hope this is just the beginning, and hopefully one day the Philippines can qualify for the World Cup," said the Brazilian through an interpreter.

The 64-year-old former attacking midfielder, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, left the country on Sunday night after an action-packed weekend.

After arriving on Friday he toured Fort Santiago in Intramuros the following morning. In the afternoon Zico went to the Sparta Philippines indoor football pitch. There he observed a training session of the Brazilian Soccer School for 50 underprivileged young footballers from Dream Big Pilipinas and Western Bicutan Football Club. He also met a few members of the media for interviews.

"I could see lots of kids enjoying football today and that is what motivates me (to do these kinds of projects,)" added Zico.

In the evening Zico attended a welcome dinner in Makati Diamond Residences attended by the Brazilian Ambassador to the Philippines, Rodrigo do Amaral Souza, as well as prominent figures in Philippine football such as Philippine Football Federation General Secretary Edwin Gastanes, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley, and Philippines Football League CEO Lazarus Xavier. Also present were popular national team standouts Phil and James Younghusband.

On Sunday morning Zico went to Rizal Memorial Stadium to witness the second half of the UAAP juniors football game between Far Eastern University and De la Salle Zobel, which the Archers won 2-0. Afterwards Zico met briefly with players and coaches of both teams. Speaking in English he exhorted the Tamaraws to “put your heart in the field,” in their next match, a finals clash against the same opponents.

“Some players had very good technical quality,” noted Zico.

After lunch was the centerpiece of the legend's visit, a football clinic for promising young players and coaches. The session was held in McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig and featured elite young footballers from several top schools and clubs.

It was also during the clinic where Zico met with PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta. Zico wished Araneta the best of luck in the upcoming Azkals game against Tajikistan in March.

“We are so honored to have a Brazilian legend like Zico visit the Philippines,” enthused Mr. Araneta.

The visit was an overwhelming success in the eyes of Seven Seas Properties, the title sponsor.

“You could really feel the excitement of the young footballers when they trained with him. No doubt they will be inspired to perform at their best in their football careers,” said Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, invited Zico here. His visit was also made possible with the generosity of Otsuka - Solar Philippines, the makers of Pocari isotonic drink, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

“I came here to contribute to football in the Philippines. I hope my visit will help develop the game here,” remarked Zico.

Zico is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70's and early 80's. He starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA's list of the world's greatest living players. –