Who the Heck Needs a Same-race Hero?

Should Filipinos really care that Barcelona's previous record goal scorer was Filipino?

Should Filipinos really care that Barcelona’s previous record goal scorer was Filipino?

Lionel Messi just broke the all-time scoring record for Barcelona, arguably the world’s most famous team in the world’s most watched sport. It’s quite an achievement. I was surprised to discover, though, that the man who previously held the record was Filipino.

Luckily, I came across two recent articles profiling Paulino Alcántara, the man who held the previous record of 371 goals. As one essay points out, besides Manny Pacquiao, Alcántara is the most successful Filipino athlete ever.

The Philippines is composed of over 7,000 islands, hundreds of ethnic groups, 120 separate languages, and was the conquest of a multitude of colonizers including the Spanish and us Americans. To call the country a jumble is an understatement. It’s fitting, then, that Alcántara’s Filipino heritage is mixed—his father was a Spanish soldier and his mother a Filiipina. Many Filipinos trace their origins to a variety of sources, whether Chinese, Spanish, or (white/black) American. I myself am, according to my relatives, a bit of Spanish, Chinese, and German. Ja, ich bin ein Deutsch. It’s why I’m so tall.[1]

Alcántara’s background reminds me a lot of Jeremy Lin, a guard for the Houston Rockets. Lin achieved academically (Harvard grad) and played pro sports at the highest level (the NBA).

Paulino Alcántara not only played elite sport, he became a successful medical doctor.[2] Besides a successful medical career, Alcántara also became one of soccer’s most prolific scorers earning the nickname “Romperredes,” Spanish for “Net Buster” because one of his shots literally broke the goal net.[3]

When I think about Alcántara I feel proud even though, in many ways, he’s totally unrelatable—he’s a Euro-based, Spanish-speaking Filipino who lived a century ago, rose to the top of two professions, and who in no way disappointed his parents.

On another level, though, Alcántara’s just like me because, dude, he was Flip!

But should I feel pride just because he shares my race? Continue reading