Monday, February 14, 2011

Blast from the Past: Paulino Alcántara

Here’s my first post for the Blast from the Past series…  It’s only fitting that I feature a Pinoy (it’s also in honor of his death anniversary).  Of course, I’m talking about none other than Paulino Alcántara.  Now that there is this sudden popularity of Philippine Football, let’s take a look at the person who already made a name International Football (but sadly did not have the same recognition here).

Full Name: Paulino Alcántara Riestrá
Birthday: October 7, 1986
Birthplace: Iloilo, Philippines
Date Died: February 13, 1964 (in Barcelona, Spain at 67 years old)(1964-02-13)
Position: Striker

Trivia from his FC Barcelona Days:

  • To this day, in the history of FC Barcelona, he is its all-time record goalscorer with a remarkable 357 goals in 357 matches (although some sites say 356 out of 357), that’s an average of one goal per game, a very rare feat, even in today’s standards.
  • He made his debut for Barcelona at the age of 15 in 1912 and scored a hat-trick in this match
  • He remains to be the club’s youngest player to play and score in a match at 15 years, 4 months and 18 days

  • After he and his parents returned to the Philippines in 1916, FC Barcelona begged his parents to let him come back to Spain and play for the team as it failed to win a major trophy in Alcántara’s absence.
  • In 1918, Alcántara returned to Barcelona, his coach (and former teammate), Jack Greenwell, experimented in putting him in defence.  But eventually returned to his normal forward position and became one of its deadliest strikers
  • He was on the Director’s Board from 1931-34
  • He was the first superstar player of the club in its golden ages, alongside Samitier, Zamora, Sagi, Piera and many more.

Other Interesting Trivia:

  • He was the first Filipino and Asian to play for a European club.
  • He was one of the best players in the world during his time (in the pre-Second World War era), renowned for his deadly shot and prowess in front of the goal, a reputation that went well beyond Barcelona borders
  • He was called “el rompe redes” (the net breaker), because he literally did.  On April 30, 1922, in an international match between Spain and France, he made a shot so hard that it ripped right through the net.  For many years after, children from Barcelona would recall that moment and would try to emulate the shot “as the man from the Philippines did”
  • His parents wanted him to be a doctor.  They were so hesitant to let him play football at 15 years old as they believe it will affect his studies.

  • Since his parents said no to him going back to Barca and play football, Alcántara protested, went on hunger strike and got sick (Although, some websites I checked said that, that he contracted Malaria in 1917, and apparently refused to take the prescribed medication until he was allowed to go back).  They eventually let him return but in the condition that he will still pursue his medical studies and become a doctor.
  • He played for the Philippines in 1917 at the Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo, helping them defeat Japan with a score of 15-2, it was the Philippines' biggest ever win in international football.
  • He was selected to represent Spain at the Olympic Games but Alcántara chose to stay at home to take his final medical exams (He eventually made his debut for Spain on October 7, 1921 at the age of 25 against Belgium and scored both goals in a 2-0 win).
  • His international career was very short lived and retired as a player in 1927 at the age of 31 to become a doctor.
  • He also represented the Philippines at table tennis.

Alcántara was born in the Philippines to a Spanish military officer and an Ilongga mother.

When he was a teenager, his family moved to Spain and he to played for FC Galeno.  It was there that he was discovered by FC Barcelona.

In 1916, Alcántara’s parents decide to return to the Philippines and took their son with them. There he continued studying medicine.  It was also at this time that he played football for Bohemian Sporting Club of Manila.

National Team:
            Philippines – 1917
            Spain – 1921 to 1923 (6 goals for his 5 caps)

Club Career:
            Galeno FC (Spain Youth Club)
            Barcelona FC – 1912 to 1916
            Bohemian Sporting Club – 1916 to 1918 (Philippines)
            Barcelona FC – 1918 to 1927

Teams Managed: Spain – 1951

Titles Won:
  • Catalan Championships – 10 times (with Barcelona 1912-13, 1915-16, 1918-19, 1919-20, 1920-21, 1921-22, 1923-24, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1926-27)
  • Spanish Championships – 5 titles (with Barcelona 1913, 1920, 1922, 1925, 1926)
  • Philippine Football Federation Men's Open Championship: 2

He hung up his studs on July 5, 1927 to become a doctor.  He was on the Board of Directors for Barcelona FC between 1931 and 1934.  He was also the coach Spanish national team for three matches (in 1915), in which the team was unbeaten.

As a fan of Philippine Football, I have heard of Paulino Alcántara before.  I thought he was just one of those so-so players who got picked up (and probably warmed the benches instead of seeing action in the pitch) in one of those so-so football clubs in Europe.  I only discovered now just how exceptional of a player he was.  I mean, he played for Barca!  And he was one of its greatest players in his time, one of the club’s legends.  Before there was a Lionel Messi, a Ronaldinho, a Ronaldo or a Diego Maradona to don the blue and red jersey, there was Paulino Alcántara.  One of football’s first legends was a Filipino, someone we can proudly say one of our own.

Hailed as one of the football legends in Europe, there are so many sites that attest too this.. here are just a few in case you want to check it out:

I also found a couple of video tributes to him

more or less same as the 1st vid

a feature on Alcantara, but it’s in Spanish

Barca players of the 1920’s?
See them in action


  1. What is his jersey number?

  2. La Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco (dedicada al dictador fascista) le dedica un artículo apologético al "camarada fascista y falangista Paulino Alcántara Riestra".

    Paulino Alcántara Riestra, el máximo goleador de la historia del Barcelona

    Un par de frases alucinantes del artículo:

    "Entró en Navarra y se presentó voluntario a la Junta Carlista, en Pamplona, en octubre de 1936. Fue Alférez Provisional.... Durante la Cruzada Nacional de Liberación, participó en numerosas Operaciones Militares. Fue Miembro del Primer Batallón de la Brigada Mixta Legionaria italiano-española “Flechas Negras” o “Frecce Nere”, que fue una Unidad del Cuerpo de Unidades Voluntarias, Corpo Truppe Volontarie, CTV. Con los Flechas Negras, ascendió al grado de Teniente y sirvió en los Frentes de Guadalajara, Aragón y Cataluña, liberando Barcelona el 26 de enero de 1939, junto al General Yagüe. Finalizada la contienda, permaneció en Barcelona, adscrito a la Brigada Mixta Legionaria “Flechas Negras” como Teniente, hasta el 2 de marzo de 1940".

    "Fue un sincero admirador del Caudillo de España Francisco Franco. Militante de FET y de las JONS, desempeñó diferentes puestos de Servicio, así como en la Junta Provincial de Barcelona de la Hermandad Nacional de Alféreces Provisionales. Falleció en Barcelona, el 13 de febrero de 1964"

    Como se suele decir, no hace falta decir nada más.... jejejej