Barça’s Filipino hero, 100 years on
With Lionel Messi now just 13 goals away from equalling Cesar Rodriguez’s final tally of 235, it has been widely written that Barcelona’s scoring record is about to fall. Not so. The magnificent Cesar might lead the way in competitive strikes, but a look at the Barça record books reveals a different name, that of Paulino Alcantara, atop its all-time scoring chart.
An amazing haul of 357 goals from as many appearances established this Filipino phenomenon among the club’s earliest icons, and the first of those goals came 100 years ago today – on a truly remarkable debut. Indeed, Alcantara features in Barça’s annals not only as its record goalscorer, but also as its youngest-ever debutant, as he took to the field against Catala SC aged just 15 years, four months and 18 days. And he didn’t just play either; he scored – three times! A legend had been born.
Born in the Philippines to a Spanish military officer father and a Filipino mother, this teenage sensation proved a pioneering figure in more respects than one. No Asian player had ever represented a European club before he moved to Spain, and few since have come close to matching his extraordinary achievements.
Alcantara was still just 19 when, having helped his Catalan employers win the Copa del Rey and two Campionat de Catalunyas, he returned for a two-year stint in his homeland, adding a couple of Filipino championship medals to his collection. Barça, however, emerged empty-handed from each of the seasons in which he was missing, and it was only when Alcantara was lured back that the club’s first truly golden era began.
By the time he retired in 1927 to become a doctor, the 31-year-old had won 17 major titles, and had represented Spain, Catalonia and the Philippines at international level. Indeed, it was while on duty with La Roja that Alcantara earned his nickname, ‘El Romperedes’ (The Netbreaker), thanks to a 30-yard thunderbolt against France that smashed through the netting.
This supreme striker was also one of the first players to write memoirs about his football career, and a statue of him stands to this day outside the headquarters of the Philippine Football Federation. A century may have passed since his glorious debut, but Alcantara - one of the beautiful game’s early greats – remains well worth remembering.