A Chicago native's hunt for Asian amateur sport matchmaking services leads to ESPZEN and Giaibongda
(Credit: Ibaraki Prefectual)By Guest 06 Aug, 2012
At age three, I picked up my first baseball; age six, played in my first competitive game of soccer, and by my tenth birthday I was playing in a baseball, soccer, basketball, and football youth league. And not to mention, the occasional tennis match at the park with my older brother was a summer favorite.
Now that I am 18 years of age, and on my way to a university in America, it has gotten progressively more difficult to play in a competitive league for any of these sports. You either have to be over 200 centimeters, have lightning speed, or be able to squat press over 180 kilograms in order to continue on in the professional world of sports.
Being that I am 170 centimeters, and couldn’t even squat 115 kilograms, I think it is safe to say that I will not be able to play in a professional game of any sport that I had once played in my childhood; which is perfectly fine by me. But, that does not mean that I am uninterested in playing these sports ever again.
My life is a prime example of why the world of “pick-up games” will never cease to exist. Pick-up games will always be an easy and fun way to enjoy playing a sport with a few friends, but how about when you don’t have enough people to play a full game? Or maybe, you and your team would like to play other people in the area in your same skill set; whether it’s mildly mediocre or very skilled.
After being offered an internship in Singapore, and taking the 20 hour flight, I was interested to see the solutions set in place here, that make it easier for pick-up teams to schedule games and tournaments against others. What I found was remarkable, but also very specific.
I landed on the website ESPZEN.com. A website that holds the slogan “Revolutionizing Amateur Football in Singapore”. And that is exactly what they did, and are doing everyday. After over seven years of existence, Espzen has now been recognized as an affiliate member of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). The FAS was quoted on ESPZEN.com commending the program for its “well-organised amateur football league which caters to the physical, social and recreational needs of many people from all walks of life and diverse nationalities, living and working in Singapore”.
Espzen’s ability to link people together through the common interest of football has in fact caught on in other areas of Southeast Asia. Sebastian Nguyen of Vietnam was visiting Singapore when he decided to play in the ESPZEN league with his team the Fighting Cocks FC. Sebastian, because of Vietnam’s population of 90 million, decided to bring the idea back home where he created Giaibongda.com, which now caters to 242 teams and has its main focus on five-per-side mini outdoor soccer.
Nguyen’s focus for Giaibongda, compatible with ESPZEN’s, is to not only reach out to as many people as possible, but to also make sure that their participants play in a reputable manner.
“What I am passionate about is providing a fun yet professional, competitive yet fair, and safe environment for amateur [football] players,” Sebastian said.
Impressed with both of the website’s ingenuity, I began searching for an American version of Espzen. Taking into account that America is a lot larger than Singapore, I began looking for the equivalent in Chicago, my hometown, and came upon the Chicago Sport and Social Club. This very similar website provides the same type of service, for a much wider variety of sports, along with organising social events as well. According to their website, The Chicago Sport and Social Club is the nation’s largest provider of recreational sports leagues with over 70,000 annual participants.
During my research, I felt proud to be able to say I am from Chicago, but then I began to think about Singapore, and the potential that this great city possesses. Think of it this way: Chicago and Singapore are exactly the same size, both hovering around 620 square kilometers, BUT Singapore has over double the residents at 5.5 million compared to Chicago’s 2.7 million. The pure density this country possesses has amazed me every moment of my two weeks I’ve been here; everywhere I turn there’s an even prettier, taller building, housing even more people. It makes me think, how could a Singaporean possibly know everyone around them, and be familiar with their interests and what sports they would want to play? Answer: It’s impossible.
That is why any means of connecting people who share the same interests, in this case people who want to play the same sport, is never a bad idea, especially for a densely populated country like Singapore.
Chicago has its own version which has a following of over 70,000 people and counting; Singapore its your turn to expand on the idea of ESPZEN, and give everyone the opportunity to connect and play the sport they love, with anyone around them.
About Peter Montesantos
Peter Montesantos knew that he loved journalism once he hit his sophomore year in high school. He joined radio, and put himself on the air, but most importantly he began writing for the Oracle. With a broad knowledge of sports, Peter went from staff reporter to Sports Editor by his senior year. In his free time, he enjoys playing pick-up basketball with his friends, eating at authentic Mexican restaurants, and spending time with his extremely large family. Moving forward, Peter plans on pursuing a career in broadcast journalism. Peter is currently completing his internship at Fetch Plus Inc.