If you want to watch football in Cebu, but don’t know where to watch it, here is everything you need to know. There are several bars in Cebu where you can watch every football game and meet other expats, which I will tell you about in more detail further down. Evidently this blog post will be useful for anyone who wants to watch the English Premier League along with any other international tournaments or leagues.
For the purposes of this article, football refers to what my American and Filipino readers would commonly know as “soccer” – the game where you use your foot to kick a ball, as opposed to the sport where you carry an egg with your hand…
source: Zwinglius Redivivus
Sport in the Philippines
If you do like football, then the Philippines is without doubt the worst place in the world to watch it. Most of Asia certainly loves football, but The Philippines is very different to its neighbours. They are heavily influenced by American culture, especially basketball, which was introduced to Filipinos by US troops during numerous military operations over here, and during the American colonisation in the 20th century. Since then, the Philippines has adopted basketball as it’s national sport and you can’t walk down a street without seeing a basketball hoop somewhere.
They are so obsessed with basketball that very, very few people actually like or follow football. When the average height of adult men in this country is 5″5, this makes no sense to me. If you look at the Spanish national football team that won back to back European championships in 2008 and 2012, and the World Cup in 2010, the majority of the players were under 6 foot. The French national team also has a player called Matthew Valbuena who is only 5″5, and yet one of the top players in European football. With that in mind, most Filipinos (no offence) are not physically built for basketball, but football is a sport that they could feasibly compete in at the World Cup, should the population of 100m people adopt it as their national sport.
That’s not to say that Filipinos don’t play football at all – they do have a national team called the Azkals (a local term for ‘street dog’ – which is rather apt for how locals view the sport!). The Azkals appear to be a team mostly comprised of half-Filipino models who play in their spare time against equally terrible footballing nations such as Palestine and Pakistan (and seem to lose half of those games too).
Watching Football in Cebu
Previously, it was a struggle to watch games here and I often had to stream matches from my laptop. However, since the start of the 2014/2015 season, a new channel package called BeIN Sports has come available to Skycable subscribers (not available on Cignal). For an additional 700 pesos a month, you get access to 3 HD channels showing football round the clock. I have had the package since it launched and it has never disappointed, even showing 3pm UK kickoffs and FA Cup matches. As of the 2015/2016 season, BeIN sports has taken over from Balls Channel (yes it really is called Balls channel) as the official channel of the Champions League. However, as there are so many Champions League games shown at the same time, it’s a lottery as to whether or not the specific game you want to watch will be shown. As the channel is broadcast from Indonesia, sometimes the match analysis is in Indonesian as well (although commentary is always in English).
If you would rather be social and have a few beers while watching a game, then here are the bars that currently show live football matches:
1. The Social, Ayala
If like most expats, the only 2 places you frequent in Cebu City are either Ayala or Mango, then you’re in luck, as there are places to watch football in both. In Ayala, There is a bar/restaurant in Ayala called The Social, which is located on the top floor in the ‘new wing’. It’s not easy to find but basically if you go to the very top floor (where the cinema is), go round past the food court. You’ll see an exit to go outside next to where Burger King is, and once outside go to the end of the path on the left side, then turn left round the corner and the social is just there, with an outdoor area and indoor seating as well. It has a really massive screen to watch either indoors or outdoors, usually quite a few expats there, and has a great bar and menu.
2. The Emerald Isle Irish Pub, Talamban
Located just next door to Urban Cellar in Talamban, the Emerald Isle is an Irish-themed pub (which I believe is also English-owned). The food here is much better than Urban Cellar and they have actually redesigned/redecorated the place recently, along with adding some delicious items to the menu. If you are a fan of Guinness then this is the place for you! They also have lawn bowls tournaments on Sunday afternoons.
3. Euro Hub Cafe and Bar, Talamban
I’ve been to this bar many times although not to watch football, but it could also be a good alternative to the two above. Again, it is also located in the exact same spot in Talamban as the other two bars (why are the only bars that show football all so close together?). I would say that out of the three, Euro Hub and Emerald Isle serve the better food (euro Hub now has a clay oven for proper pizzas) and I would recommend their milkshakes. It’s a mix of European-themed dishes (as the name suggests) and they also serve filipino food to keep your filipina girlfriend/date happy.
The layout is much more modern than Urban Cellar and Emerald Isle – this is more of a sports bar than an English/Irish pub like the other two i.e. they have a pool table and a much brighter interior.
4. All Stars Sports Bar, Mango Ave
Formerly a girly bar known as Pussycats, All Stars Sports Bar has completely changed the old bar’s previously seedy image, and has become the number 1 bar for the expat community in Cebu. It’s located on Mango Avenue near the big church, but is far enough away from J Ave to avoid the Mango Square crowd. Along with live Premier League games it also shows pretty much any sport that is televised, and is also very popular for UFC on Sunday mornings. They have a number of screens dotted around the place so you can get a good view anywhere and they also have live bands throughout the week. They serve excellent food and even have a tattoo parlour upstairs called Red Chair Tattoo if you’re feeling adventurous.
5. Marshall’s Irish Pub, Mango Square
Marshall’s Irish Pub has been around for a long time and has a loyal crowd of expats that regularly go there to watch the games. They have a big screen behind the bar so it’s a good place to watch games but the bar is pretty small so I would recommend getting there early to get a seat if it’s a big game (or ask for a reservation).
If you’re feeling lazy to leave your condo or your game isn’t shown on TV, you can use various streaming sites instead, however the internet here is usually very slow, so this is definitely not recommended. You should also be prepared for the kick off times – 7:45pm in England is 2:45am here (or 3:45am when the clocks go forward), so be prepared to stay up late for midweek or Champions League games!