Paulino Alcántara Riestrá (born in Iloilo City, Philippines, October 7, 1896; died Barcelona, Spain, February 13, 1964) was a Filipino/Spanish footballer who played for FC Galeno, FC Barcelona, Bohemians of Manila, the Philippines and Spain. Alcántara is still the youngest player to play and score for FC Barcelona in a competitive game. He played for the club between 1912 and 1927, scoring 357 goals in as many matches and remains the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. Alcántara was also the first Asian-born footballer to play for a European club and will go down in history as the greatest Filipino footballer of all time.
Debut at 15
Alcántara was born in the Philippines to Spanish parents. His father was a Spanish soldier stationed there. He grew up in Barcelona and initially played for FC Galeno before he was soon spotted by Joan Gamper and signed up for FC Barcelona. He made his senior debut at the age of 15 years, 4 months and 18 days on February 25, 1912 against Catalá SC in the Championat de Catalunya. FC Barcelona won 9-0, and Alcántara scored the first three goals of that match. He went on to help the club win a Copa del ReyChampionat de Catalunya double in 1913 and a Championat de Catalunya in 1916.
Return to the Philippines
In 1916 Alcántara’s parents returned to the Philippines and took their son with them. There he continued his studies in medicine and played for Bohemians of Manila. He was selected to play for the Philippine national football team in 1917 to represent the country in the Tokyo Far Eastern Championship Games, where he would lead the country to a 15-2 demolition of host country Japan. He also represented the Philippines at table tennis. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona had failed to win a major trophy in his absence and the club pleaded in vain with his parents to allow him to return to Spain. However, he contracted malaria in 1917 and apparently refused to take the prescribed medication until he was allowed to go back.
The Golden Age
After returning to Spain with FC Barcelona, coach Jack Greenwell experimented with Alcántara as a defender but protests from fans saw him return to the forward line and in 1919 helped the club win another Championat de Catalunya. The club also reached the Copa del Rey final but lost 5-2 to Arenas Club de Getxo. In 1920 the club won another Copa del Rey/Championat de Catalunya double with Alcántara scoring in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa final. The FC Barcelona team now included Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier, Félix Sesúmaga and Sagibarbá, who formed a notable partnership with Alcántara. This marked the beginning of one of the clubs golden eras and saw them dominating both the Championat de Catalunya and Copa del Rey. Alcántara scored twice in the 1922 Copa final where FC Barcelona beat Real Unión 5-1 and scored the winner in the 3-2 win over Atlético de Madrid in the 1926 final. He retired from active play at the age of 31 and became a doctor. On July 5, 1927, FC Barcelona played against Spain in a testimonial in his honour. He later served as Barca’s club director from 1931 to 1934.
Career with Spain
In 1920, Alcántara, Zamora, Samitier and Sesúmaga were all chosen to represent Spain at the Olympic Games that year. However, Alcántara chose to stay at home to take his final medical exams. He eventually made five appearances and scored six goals for Spain between 1921 and 1923. He made his international debut on October 7, 1921 at the age of 25 against and scored both goals in a 2-0 win.
In 1951 Alcántara was one of three selectors, along with Félix Quesada and Luís Iceta, that coached Spain for three games against Switerland, Belgium and Sweden.