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 World Cup in Cebu, but also for the 2014/2015 Premier League season which starts in August.
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 their neighbours. They are heavily influenced by American culture, especially basketball, which was introduced to Filipinos by US troops during numerous military operations over here. 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 are 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 90m 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 most of those games too).
Watching Football in Cebu
In places like Thailand and Dubai, you can watch any English football game live on TV. In the Philippines, you can’t even watch ANY premier league games currently. I have heard rumours that Balls channel (yes, it’s actually called Balls channel), will be showing live premier league games for the 2014/2015 season, but until I actually see a live game on my TV screen, I don’t want to get my hopes up.
Balls channel does however show Champions League games and it has also been showing every World Cup game, although they don’t have pundits so half time just comprises of the same 5 commercials on repeat, mixed in with the official world cup song music video. If you want to get Balls channel, you’ll need a basic Skycable subscription – I think you can get this for around 400 PHP a month. Make sure you don’t get the other cable TV providers here as I’ve heard that they don’t even have Balls Channel. Balls Channel also shows a lot of UFC so it’s pretty good to have.
Despite no local TV stations showing live Premier League Games, you can still go to the following bars that will show all of the big matches.
1. Urban Cellar
I have previously mentioned Urban Cellar in my list of 50 things to Do in Cebu, and it is one of the only places to watch football in Cebu. Urban Cellar is an English owned bar in Talamban, serving English food (done in a Filipino style) and showing English and European football games on a huge screen. If you want to watch football here though, go early to avoid standing, as there aren’t a huge amount of seats inside and it can get pretty crowded for the big games (I had a terrible seat for Arsenal vs Liverpool last season). You will usually find some local football fans in here, along with expats, and there’s a pretty good atmosphere. I was here for the FA Cup final and this is now my first choice of places to watch football.
2. The Emerald Isle Irish Pub
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 probably a bit better than Urban Cellar and I had some really good quesadillas here once. They also have two big screens inside and one outdoor screen. I previously liked this bar more than Urban Cellar, just because I was able to get a better seat for the games.
However, I went there to watch the FA Cup Final and instead of showing it when I asked them, they instead decided to show the final game of the Spanish league season (which admittedly was also an important game). I could understand that decision, except for the fact that they have two screens and there was no one else in the bar other than me and my girlfriend. This made me very stressed as it was about 10 minutes before kick-off and I was extremely nervous about the game, so I just left and went to Urban Cellar next door. Anyway, don’t let my bad experience put you off as this is still a great place to watch football and I’m sure I will return at some point next season.
3. Euro Hub Cafe and Bar
I’ve never actually watched football at this bar, but potentially 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 serves the best food and I would recommend the 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. They’re certainly showing the World Cup at the moment and I’m sure that they probably also show other football games, but when I went there they were showing a replay of an old Man Utd vs. Liverpool game instead of the FA Cup Final, although I’m not sure anyone there knew it was an old game.
4. The Joker’s Arms
The Joker’s Arms is also pretty far from central Cebu City, located in Mandaue towards the Mactan bridge. I’ve never been here as it’s pretty far from where I live (would take about 30-40 minutes to drive there) and Talamban is maybe slightly closer, although still far away. According to their Facebook page they do show live premier league games (and world cup games) and it’s also a popular place with expats, and you’ll likely read about it in some of the expat forums here.
5. Burrito Babes
Burrito Babes is a relatively new bar in Cebu, and is certainly very popular with foreigners (although again, I have never actually been – most likely because my girlfriend doesn’t want me going to a bar with ‘babes’). I know that they are showing World Cup games but not sure at the moment if they will show premier league games next season. It seems unlikely if I’m honest as most of the premier league games would be at peak times on Saturday nights and I think people come here more for partying (babes) than football, but you never know – they might consider it if you ask them nicely and they probably have the channel. However, I imagine it’s a good place to watch the World Cup at least, as they have a big reputation for food and Beer Pong, and it’s also more centrally located than the above options.
source: Burrito Babes – Facebook page
6. William Ninoy’s Payag
William Ninoy’s Payag Bar is very easy to get to as it’s just along from Capitol on the corner of Escario street. The bar is pretty small and they have a very used pool table, but they do at least have a TV that shows football. I used to come here sometimes to watch football when I first came to Cebu, but haven’t been in a long time. The TV screen behind the bar isn’t huge but they at least show the games (or did back in 2012 – I assume they still do). It’s got a nice local feel to it and it doesn’t get too crowded, it’s pretty much on a par with local bars here in Cebu. One downside though is that you will never get a smile out of the women that work there – they seem to always be in a bad mood, but don’t let that put you off. Probably more well-known for it’s weekly comedy club rather than football though.
If you’re feeling lazy to go out or your game isn’t shown anywhere, you can use streaming sites like Wiziwig and various others, although I have had a mixed bag with streaming games as my internet connection is diabolical (as are all internet connections in the Philippines). 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 watching football in Cebu is certainly anything but simple.