Amanda Fernandez is football crazy and is trying to make sure that every Filipino, rich or poor, can play football. The young businesswoman wants to become a football pioneer in her country.
The Philippines is a country still taking baby steps, when it comes to football development. There are not a lot of football pitches in Amanda Fernandez's home city of Manila, but the number is growing. Basketball remains the number one sport, followed by martial arts and diving. Nevertheless, passion for football is increasing. Amanda Fernandez learnt football at home, playing in the garden with her brother. "Football is my life, my passion," said Amanda. Simply put, she is addicted to sport.
Five years ago, Amanda completed her degree in business economics at the University of San Diego, in the US. Alongside her work as a businesswoman, she hosts the Internet show 'Gameplan' and has also worked as a model. Amanda is not someone who can sit still easily.
Having tried almost every type of sport, it is no surprise to hear her describe her life with words such as active, healthy, sporty and constantly busy. Nevertheless, football is her number one. Every Tuesday and Thursday, she trains with her women's team, Sikat FC. They take part in competitions and are also involved in futsal games too.
Football popularity growing
The Philippines national team, the 'Askals' (which translates to mean "stray dogs"), is coached by the former US national team assistant coach Tom Dooley and is gaining in popularity. Even if their FIFA ranking (128) is nothing to boast about, they are winning the hearts of many onlookers with their performances. The result: more and more Filipinos are making their way to the football pitch.
Weekend tournaments can sometimes draw 300 to 400 teams from all over the country with players of all ages and abilities. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands and they're not all easy to reach, forcing many teams to come to the capital of Manila to play.
There, in the Mandaluyong district, Amanda has helped set up the area's second indoor football center. It took a long time, and with a great deal of persistence the perfectionist planned everything right down to the smallest detail.
"I call it Sparta, because the Spartans always trained hard," she said. It's also her motto: "Everything or nothing!" The centre also hosts yoga, zumba and dance classes as well as a number of other sports. The FIFA-approved Astroturf, which cost a third of the overall price, shows that football really is the main sport here.
"I think to build a sports center like this, off my own back, in order to implement my vision exactly, is a good way to inspire others."
A pioneer of sports development
So far, football pitches are not that commonplace here. The weather - more than 30 degrees Celsius and often accompanied by stifling humidity - makes football in the park an arduous pastime. With an air conditioned sports hall with football pitches, Amanda Fernandez wants to make sure everyone has the chance to kick a ball around: "I want to host youth tournaments, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. I also want to train coaches."
Amanda wants to help the country grow through sport. She's not just a businesswoman that makes money.
"I am a sportswoman who is building a sports city. My dream is to become a pioneer in sports development in the Philippines," she says. "That would be brilliant."