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From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors in Asia Vol.34: HIRATA Reiji, Head of Youth Development of the Philippines Football Federation

19 July 2018

From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors in Asia Vol.34: HIRATA Reiji, Head of Youth Development of the Philippines Football Federation

“From Pitches in Asia” is a report that introduces the viewpoints of instructors active in Asian countries. The 34th edition is a report by HIRATA Reiji, who works in the Philippines as the Head of Youth Development of the Philippines Football Federation (PFF).

Assignment in the Philippines started this February

My assignment in the Philippines started in February of this year, and I have been surprised in many aspects by the gap between my expectations before the assignment and the reality I faced once I actually moved to the Philippines. The first thing I noticed was the traffic in the capital area of Manila. The traffic is so bad that even if I leave ahead of schedule, I still find myself being late in some occasions. The heavy traffic reflects the booming economy in the capital area, as Manila is full of energy. But at the same time, the disparity of wealth is very evident and many things that are considered to be normal in Japan may not apply here, which was quite shocking to me. In terms of football, the sport is surprisingly popular in other areas besides Manila (such as the Visayan Islands and Mindanao, etc.), and many kids are seen playing football in those areas.

I have come across many matches where the players play full-out from the beginning of the match, chasing the ball with great intensity, but run out of gas during the duration of the match, which as a result changes the dynamics of the match dramatically. Their play style gives me the impression that they are very decisive and have the ability to respond with a makeshift effort but lacks a wide perspective. I personally must learn more about the Philippines and the Filipino players so that I can contribute to the overall growth of football in the Philippines.

Obligations as the Head of Youth Development

Once I was assigned to this position in the Philippines, I launched a project to initiate a system that is similar to the Japanese “Training Centre System.” The plan is to consolidate and create a unified philosophy, dream, method, concept and programme for the PFF’s youth development, cooperate with each local football associations (40 associations) and initiate the system one by one, according to each area’s budget and situations.

The supporters have shown great understandings of the project thus far, so I hope to deepen the relationship between the local members to proceed with the project. In the Philippines, it is not unusual to see a delay in the initial schedule, so I will continue to move forward while understanding the speed in which the local members would like to proceed with. One day we hope to construct a Training Centre System that develop players that represents each age categories of the Philippines National Team.

Appointment as coach of the U-19 National Team, and sudden request to coach the U-16 National Team

In early July, I received a request to act as the coach of the U-19 Philippines National Team, just 10 days ahead of the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) U-19 Youth Championship held in Indonesia. I had prior experience participating in activities of the national team as the Head of Youth Development, so even with the short notice, I managed to accept the role and enter the tournament smoothly. However, the team was eliminated after the group league, and the result at the tournament (1 win, 4 losses/ 5th place out of 6 teams) was brutal enough to make me realise the current state of the Filipino football. I felt that many of the missing pieces included physical aspects and that the team lacked international experience as well as domestic match experience compared to the other ASEAN countries. The current goal for the PFF is to provide sufficient environment for the national team, such as appropriate preparation time, while also providing detailed dream and a vision for the team. I am also feeling the need to come up with a 10-year plan to develop coaches domestically. I am now assigned as the coach of the U-16 national team ahead of the AFF U-16 Championship in Indonesia, scheduled for late July. Once again, I am only given about 10 days to prepare for the tournament, but for the players this is a priceless opportunity to gain precious international experience, so I will strive to earn as many points as possible in this tournament, while keeping in mind to keep a smile and to provide passion on the field. Combining the experience I gained from coaching the U-19 national team, and this time the U-16 national team, I will utilise the experience to analyse the Filipino football and create a development plan as well as a future vision for the country.


Many people in the Philippines has mentioned to me that they like Japan or praised about the Japanese football. I also hear the words expressing the gratitude they have towards the predecessors who were here before me (such as Mr. IMAI Masataka, Mr. KANBE Sugao, and Mr. ABE Keia). As a Japanese instructor myself, I will continue my work in the Philippines while keeping in mind of the tradition and pride of the Japanese football.


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