Sun 23 June 2024

300 athletes expected at the Inter-Ateneo Football Friendlies

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The 4th Inter-Ateneo Football Friendlies (IAF) will kick off again on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at the Ateneo de Manila High School in Quezon City.

Alumni from the five Ateneo universities will compete in two separate divisions to crown this year’s champions. In the last edition of the IAF in Zamboanga last year, the home team, Ateneo de Zamboanga, topped the 40+ age group while the visitors from the Ateneo de Manila were declared champions of the 48+ division.

This edition of the IAF is the biggest one yet with organizers expecting 300 athletes representing 15 teams coming from Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Naga, Zamboanga, and Manila. Each team will play in at least six 20-minute games with an 8-a-side format.

At stake are trophies and bragging rights, though the games are typically spirited with old high school and college rivalries bubbling to the surface. Despite the competitive energy on the pitch, the IAF’s unofficial motto is “kalaro kita, hindi kalaban.” According to an organizer: “We fight and play very hard but, at the end of the day, we’re all Ateneans united in our passion for this beautiful game.”

While former national team members such as Randy Roxas, Joao Pajaro, Mark Villon, Rene Grapilon, Boloy Mendoza and college varsity players dominate the rosters, the line-ups also have a healthy representation of weekend warriors and those who took up the sport later in life.

Teams have been holding “secret practices” since last year to be as fit and as prepared as they can be for the games.

IAF 2024 organizer Martin Lacdao of the Ateneo de Manila team describes the tournament as “friendly and convivial.”

“But, don’t let all those smiles and funny stories fool you,” he warns. “The boys are really competitive. Once they enter the pitch, it’s a battle and the old school spirit re-emerges with a vengeance. On the field, it’s like we’re 22 years old again.”

The IAF is annual football tournament open to former students of the various Ateneo universities. It first kicked off in Cagayan de Oro in February 2020. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, it re-started in Davao in 2022 and continued in Zamboanga in 2023. This year, it is Manila’s turn to host, to be followed by Naga in 2025.

The IAF is presented by partner Bank of the Philippine Islands, and supporting sponsors Red Rock IT Security, SMC Infrastructure, Rebisco, Likha Residences, BMW Motorrad, PAGCOR, Thunderbird Resort and Casino, Arton by Rockwell, Randy’s Donuts, and Smart Sports.

For more information on the IAF, please search for “IAF Manila 2024” on Facebook.

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