32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back every day for a new profile. Next up: A 49ers fan in the Philippines.
When I called Francis Aguilar in Manila a few weeks ago he had just finished watching a replay of San Francisco’s Week 15 41-34 win over New England from last season.
Aguilar bleeds red and gold, and has done so since college when then 49ers quarterback Steve Young drew him in. But Young and the tail end of San Francisco’s five Super Bowl dynasty era were not the only factors.
“Subliminally, I think I’m rooting for the 49ers because there are a lot of Filipinos in San Francisco,” Aguilar said.
The 2010 United States census counted 287, 879 Filipinos in the San Francisco Bay Area, second only to Los Angeles.
There may be a lot Filipinos in San Francisco but there are few football fans in the Philippines.
Despite having a family and a healthy group of friends, Aguilar is lonely when it comes to his fandom.
“Unfortunately for me, I’m the only one who likes football. Who understands it,” he said.
Aguilar did at one time work with a Packers fan and a Bears fan but they have both moved on to other companies, thus breaking up the threesome’s NFC trashtalking sessions.
He calls the NFL a “special interest sport” in the Philippines and laments the lack of merchandise sold in local Nike stores. Actually, according to Aguilar, there is no NFL merchandise for sale.
Thus it is pure modernization that has helped him stay connected to the 49ers.
Aguilar’s main saving grace is the Philippines’ All Sports Network (ASN), which via an add-on package, he is able to watch a number of games in-season and replays such as San Francisco-New England in the offseason.
“Beforehand I’d have to patiently watch the play-by-play on NFL.com,” Aguilar added.
Patient is right. By “watching” NFL.com, he means staring at “live” play-by-play text updates that are seconds behind the game action and oftentimes in need of amendment.
Besides Steve Young and Aguilar’s cultural ties to San Francisco, he still needed a reason to stick around, to become an embedded fan. Aguilar was instantly drawn to the intricate strategic element of football. And now he credits the increase in available games on ASN for his sophistication as a fan.
“I started out just focused on scheming for the offense,” he said. “But as I gained more knowledge I moved on to absorbing defenses.”
Not a bad side of the ball to focus on if you’re a 49ers fan.
Now Aguilar undergoes a daily routine to stay connected which goes something like this: Get home from work. Check SI.com first, then 49ers.com, then NFL.com. Check an all-encompassing San Francisco site like Niners Nation. Look to CSN’s Matt Maiocco for any additional scoops.
However, once Aguilar puts the technology away, he has to deal with the fact that he resides in an NFL wasteland.
He notes a few Manila bars which focus on the Super Bowl, mostly catering to expats. And is hoping the slow growth of flag football in the Philippines will facilitate some attention from the league.
For now, Aguilar encourages the NFL to increase its marketing efforts in his country, and has one specific request for Roger Goodell:
“Please sell some stuff here!”