Paulino Alcantara Riestra scored 395 goals in 399 matches for Barça (competitive and friendly matches), and he is the Club’s second top scorer behind Leo Messi. Although he was thin and short in stature, he had an extremely powerful shot. In fact, he received the nickname “net-buster” after a 1922 game for the Spanish national team when his thunderous shot broke the net. His exceptional goalscoring ability, unusual build, dark complexion and serious nature, along with the white handkerchief used to dry his sweat that dangled from his shorts, all contributed to making him the first player with genuine popular appeal in the history of FC Barcelona. Moreover, Alcántara is also known for being the first Barca player to write his memoirs, which he did while still playing in 1924.
Alcántara was born in Iloilo (Philippines) October 7, 1896 – son of a Filipina and a Spanish colonial soldier. He arrived in Barcelona with his parents in 1899. Despite his physical limitations, he started playing football at a young age, showcasing his enormous abilities. He joined the FC Barcelona youth team in 1910, where he dazzled the president Joan Gamper with its goals. It should be noted that the young Filipino striker managed to overcome his levity thanks to his never say die spirit and his iron will to be a professional. He already knew he wanted to be a doctor, but he was also determined to prove that the doctors who said he didn’t have the physical qualities to play football were wrong.
A first record
Soon February 25, 1912and just aged 15 years old, he made his first-team debut in a Campeonato de Catalunya game against Català Sporting Club at the Calle de la Indústria pitch. The self-managed team (Barça had no coach until 1917) consisted of Peris, Irízar, Lorca, Rozitsky, Lambe, Wilson, Berdié, Alcántara, Summer, Massana and Espelta. Barça had notable figures in its ranks such as local player Alfred Massana and Polish player Walter Rozitsky, as well as Domènec Espelta and Enrique Lorca, two sportsmen of the time who knew how to combine football with athletics, gymnastics and horseback riding.
The clash must have been memorable given the huge gap between the teams, but the few hundred fans on the pitch at Calle de la Industria marveled at the slim, darker-skinned youngster who had the look lost among these seasoned athletes. They soon found out what it was. The match ended in a 9-0 landslide victory for Barça, with a hat trick for this young Filipino boy who knew how to shoot so well. Alcantara also scored a hat-trick in his second and third games for Barca. He wasn’t even centre-forward either, as his natural position was inside left, where he could run from deep and land his stunning shots. After scoring 19 goals in 10 games, a sports journalist wrote about him: “Alcántara is a promising boy and will soon be crucial for this team”. He was absolutely right.
A long-awaited return
He left for the Philippines in 1916 to study Medication, but FC Barcelona sent him a telegram at the end of the following year, asking him to return to the team, as they had been through a terrible period since his departure. On April 28, 1918, after a two-month boat trip, Alcántara returned to Barcelona, where he was warmly welcomed.
Determined to enter Medication (after easily combining his medical studies and football from the mid-1920s), the “net-buster” hung up his boots on July 3, 1927, after helping Barça win five Spanish league titles and 10 Catalan league titles. That day, FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team played a match on a pitch in Les Corts to pay tribute and say goodbye to Alcántara. Barça’s squad that day consisted of Platko, Walter, Muntaner, Bosch (Arocha), Castillo, Carulla, Piera, Samitier, Sastre, Alcántara and Sagibarba. It was the legendary Barça team of the golden age.
He always had close ties with the Club, spending three years as manager from 1931 to 1934 and was chairman of the FC Barcelona Players Association in 1959. Five years later, on February 13, 1964, Doctor Paulino Alcántara died in Barcelona. He was buried in Les Corts cemetery, next to Camp Nou. FIFA named Alcántara as the greatest Asian player of all time in 2007.