She is the co-founder of Football for Humanity (FFH), an international non-stock, non-profit, non-government organization that focuses on community development and peace building.
An immensely successful insurance marketing executive, Belle Tiongco has changed gears, choosing to retire and continue the football advocacy started by her former company.
Together with FFH founder Christopher Thomas, she has formulated a “strategy” that she said would allow football to be fast-tracked in the Philippines, a non-football country.
“Every time I’m abroad, I envy countries that have very strong sports programs for its youth. I don’t see the Philippines as having a strong sports program, so its organizations like us who have to pick up the slack,” Tiongco said.
She is the first to admit, however, that she is no athlete and plays no football. “I’ve been a dancer since I learned how to walk and I lead an active lifestyle, still mostly centered on dance and fitness. But I’ve always loved football, maybe, since the late 80s and early 90s, when I noticed the way the world wraps itself around football, every time the World Cup comes.”
Tiongco finds her work in FFH very fulfilling. “I’ve realized it does not take so much to get people, especially children, playing. There are a million more benefits to spending a million pesos for sports. The children’s smiles, their enthusiasm, and the way they have changed their outlook in life, due to football, and being part of a team, is very motivating and inspirational for me. I wish I could do so much more.”
This petite, fair-complexioned, chinky-eyed, former executive makes a joke about her darker complexion nowadays, since she started going on provincial trips to promote football.
“My skin is darker but kidding aside, I think I’m able to lead a healthier lifestyle because I’m always moving and playing with kids, and helping Chris set up the pitch for training.
Tiongco said that at FFH, they deal with reality all the time. “If we don’t keep our eyes on our vision, we can be defeated every day. But our work ethic is just to do the best with what we have, at every circumstance. And somehow, even with meager resources, we have seen how we are able to create positive change. And there are also so many who have pledged to support us in many ways, and tell us to continue. And so we move forward, everyday.”
As mentioned in their website, https://www.footballforhumanity.org/, FFH is dedicated to using football and the power of play to empower children suffering from the devastating effects of armed conflict, natural disasters, and extreme poverty.
It reaches out to marginalized communities “where children are at risk and envisions a borderless world where all children are protected and given equal opportunities to reach their full potential.”
Tiongco said that she found it a source of wonder why despite cultural differences, distinct political beliefs, and varying opinions, people around the world are able to unite and play together following one set of rules that everyone is expected to follow.
“It means sports brings out the best in people. We agree to be one,” she concluded. (Psyche Roxas-Mendoza)