“Nobody thought I could pull this one off” admits Jonathan “Jojo” Defensor De Luzuriaga, as he stands inside his baby, Kick Off Indoor Football Center.
Tucked away on Marcos Alvarez avenue off the Alabang-Zapote road, KOIFC is an oasis of Football in an area of Industrial warehouse complexes and factories.
De Luzuriaga, 41, says he spent his weekends for about five months scouring for a site for his brainchild, with his son Jose Luis in tow, dragging a huge tape measure.
They checked out plenty of warehouses, but De Luzuriaga just wasn't satisfied. Until he came to a warehouse of the Cemtex compound in Las Piñas that had been empty for five years. From the moment he saw the space, he knew it was the right spot.
“It takes someone insane to see it happening here” he says of the property.
In just two months, crews transformed the warehouse into what it is today: one of the best indoor Football facilities in the country. De Luzuriaga was so excited he even visited the site at 3:00 a.m. a few times to monitor the progress. It formally opened on September 8.
The centerpiece is the 19m by 36m artificial grass pitch by Limonta Sport. Called Limonta Infinity 50mm, the surface is different from the Limonta turf in Emperador and Turf BGC. The Infinity grass is a hybrid of sturdy monofilament fibers and more affordable fibrilated ones. It's intended to last long and be cost-effective. The infill is 25% silica sand, with the rest rubber pellets.
I didn't get to play on the surface but it felt good, a wee bit softer than The Camp's Decorea brand turf.
There are half-circle penalty areas around the goals and four yellow penalty rectangles on the side, for small-sided games.
The main goal frames are Futsal (indoor five-a-side) size, two-meters tall and three meters wide. Perhaps there should be an option for bigger frames also, like the wider ones in The Camp.
De Luzuriaga claims that 7-a-side play is possible, and 6-a-side is common. To my eye, 5-a-side seems about right.
The place is brightly lit by LED lights and the walls are painted a pleasing green. Unlike The Camp, the ceiling is high, so there is no need to keep passes and goal clearances low.
There's also another KOIFC touch to the playing experience: loud music. De Luzuriaga says it adds to the enjoyment of the game, hence several loudspeakers.
Jojo says that already over a hundred players regularly play in KOIFC, including the UFL's Team Socceroo, who hold practices there.
A thriving Football community has taken hold, and Jojo seems to be at the center of it. “Some of these kids are bequeathed to me by their parents until a certain time of the day. Now everyone calls me Tito Jojo.”
But more than just the field, Kick Off features loads of neat touches that betray De Luzuriaga's passion, nay, obsession with the facility.
For example, aside from the main pitch, there is a mezzanine level with a small hard court for kids. De Luzuriaga intends to cover it with plastic Futsal tiles. On the railing overlooking the pitch is a small video camera, and from there Kick Off streams games every night on the Internet via ustream.
In the lobby area there's the Halftime Spa, presumably for the girlfriends of Footballers to get prettified while waiting for them to finish playing. Ruby, Jojo's wife, runs it. Right beside is the small Kick Off Cafe.
Visitors are greeted by a fully-stocked branch of Albe and Sitti Aparilla's Futbol Atbp store, where you can get just about anything Football-related.
A whiteboard on the hallway beside the pitch makes it easy to organize teams for recreational kickarounds. The hallway itself is separated from the pitch with plexiglass, so viewers are protected from stray balls.
Jojo says that KOIFC isn't just for pick-up games. Organized Football-themed events are possible, including kiddie parties with waiters sporting Football jerseys.
The Football motif is everywhere. The ceiling lights, stools, and wall clocks all sport a black-and-white Football design. Jojo serves me donuts on a Football plate. Not even the Santo Niño is spared. It's wearing a Football jersey too. “I don't want to see what the tissue paper in your bathroom looks like” I joke to him.
But by far the biggest surprise about KOIFC is the mini-Football museum in the far room past the pitch. There jerseys and scarves hang from the walls, as well as a small shrine to Fil-Spanish Barcelona legend Paulino Alcantara. A wooden statue of the man called “El Romperedes” (the net-breaker) stands there. De Luzuriaga says he found it moldering away in someone's house.
On another side are large tarpaulins with information about the origins and the greats of the game, like Russian goalie Lev Yashin.
It's all a labor of love for Luzuriaga, who is Negrense on one side of his family and Ilonggo on the other, although he grew up in Manila. It's here where he fell in love with Football while studying in Lourdes School Mandaluyong and De La Salle University-Dasmariñas.
De Luzuriaga is semi-retired from his career in Business Process Outsourcing, and loves to devote his time to the Beautiful Game. He is also involved with Manila South United Football Club and distributes the Sells brand goalkeeper gloves in the Philippines.
Jojo is far from finished with his Football dreams. He envisions two or three more similar outlets all over the metropolis. And plans are in the pipeline for a full-size outdoor field in General Mariano Alvarez in Cavite.
True to its name, Kick-off Indoor Football Center is just the beginning.