110th anniversary of Paulino Alcántara's debut

110th anniversary of Paulino Alcántara's debut

Friday will mark 110 years since a 15-year-old Philippine boy scored a hat-trick on his debut for the Barça first team. A Club legend who had scored 392 goals by 1927

Paulino Alcántara Riestra scored 395 goals in 399 games in the Barça jersey (both competitive and friendly games), and he is the Club's second highest goalscorer behind Leo Messi. Despite being slim and slight in stature, he had a tremendously powerful shot. In fact, he was given the nickname "net-buster" after a 1922 game for the Spanish national side when his thunderous shot broke the net.

His outstanding goalscoring ability, his unusual frame, his dark complexion and serious nature, and the white handkerchief used to dry his sweat that hung from his shorts, all contributed to him becoming the first player with true popular appeal in FC Barcelona's history.

Furthermore, Alcántara is also known for being the first Barça player to write his memoirs, which he did while still playing in 1924.


Alcántara was born in Iloilo (Philippines) on October 7, 1896 - the son of a Philippine lady and a Spanish colonial soldier. He arrived in Barcelona with his parents in 1899. Despite his physical limitations, he started playing football at a young age, showcasing his tremendous abilities. He joined the FC Barcelona youth team in 1910, where he dazzled president Joan Gamper with his goals.

It's worth noting that the young Philippine forward was able to overcome his slight frame through his never-say-die spirit and iron will to be a professional. He already knew that he wanted to become a doctor, but he was also determined to show the doctors that said he didn't have the physical attributes to play football were wrong.


A record debut

So, on February 25, 1912, and aged just 15 years old, he made his first-team debut during a Campeonato de Catalunya match against Català Sporting Club at the Calle de la Indústria pitch. The self-managed team (Barça didn't have a coach until 1917) was made up of Peris, Irízar, Lorca, Rozitsky, Lambe, Wilson, Berdié, Alcántara, Summer, Massana and Espelta.

Barça featured notable figures in their ranks such as local player, Alfred Massana, and the Polish player, Walter Rozitsky, as well as Domènec Espelta and Enrique Lorca, two sportsmen from that period that were able to combine playing football with athletics, gymnastics, and equestrianism.

The clash must have been memorable given the huge gap between the teams, but the few hundred fans at the Calle de la Industria pitch were full of wonder about the young, slight, darker-skinned teenager who looked lost among such seasoned sportsmen.

They soon found out what he was all about. The game ended with a resounding 9-0 victory for Barça, with a hat-trick for that young Philippine boy who could shoot so well. Alcántara scored a hat-trick in his second and third games for Barça too.

He wasn't even the centre forward either, as his natural position was inside left, where he could run from deep and hit his stunning shots. After he had scored 19 goals in 10 games, a sports journalist wrote about him: “Alcántara is a boy with promise and will soon prove crucial for this team”. He was absolutely right.


A long-awaited return

He left for the Philippines in 1916 to study Medicine, but FC Barcelona sent him a telegram at the end of the following year, asking him to return to the team, as they had gone through a terrible time since he left. On April 28, 1918, after a two month boat trip, Alcántara arrived back in Barcelona, where he was warmly received.

Alcántara partit

Determined to go into Medicine (after easily combining his doctor's education and football from the mid 1920s onwards), the “net-buster” hung up his boots on July 3, 1927, after having helped Barça to win five Spanish championship titles and 10 Catalonia championship titles.

That day saw FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team play a match on a pitch in Les Corts to both pay tribute and say farewell to Alcántara. The Barça team that day comprised Platko, Walter, Muntaner, Bosch (Arocha), Castillo, Carulla, Piera, Samitier, Sastre, Alcántara and Sagibarba. It was the legendary Barça team from the Golden Age.

He always had close ties to the Club, spending three years as a director from 1931-34 and was president of the FC Barcelona Players Association in 1959. Five years later, on February 13, 1964, Doctor Paulino Alcántara passed way in Barcelona. He was buried in the Les Corts cemetery, next to Camp Nou. FIFA named Alcántara as the greatest Asian player of all time in 2007.

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