VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Mocha Uson wrongly implies Duterte is ‘best’ leader in ASEAN

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Deputy Administrator Margaux “Mocha” Uson insinuated President Rodrigo Duterte was the “best” among Southeast Asian leaders after being given a number 10 football jersey by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in Thailand on Nov. 2.

Duterte and nine other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) received special jerseys from FIFA as part of its aim to promote football in the region.


On Nov. 3, Uson posted an infographic on her Facebook page Mocha Uson Blog that showed Duterte beside well-known football players Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Neymar de Silva Santos Jr. with the caption:

ALAM NYO BA? (Did you know?) Sa larong (In the game of) football, ang (the) shirt number 10 ay ibinibigay lamang sa mga (is only given to the) playmaker o (or the) best player ng (of the) team?”

Source: Mocha Uson official Facebook page, Astig tlga ni Tatay Digong, Nov. 4, 2019

Some netizens took this to mean Duterte was “noted one of the BEST LEADER (sic) IN ASEAN COUNTRIES,” as stated by one of the post’s most relevant comments, which had over 400 reactions.

The post has since garnered over 36,000 interactions and 4,000 shares, and projected to have reached at least 5.8 million people.


While it is true that Argentina’s Maradona and Messi, and Brazil’s Neymar Jr. have sported number 10 jerseys, Duterte was given one with the same number because of his status as president.

According to a press release posted on the ASEAN Thailand National Secretariat website:

“The President of FIFA reiterated FIFA’s readiness to work closely with ASEAN and…present football jerseys to each ASEAN Leader, bearing the Leader’s name and a designated number. Number 10 was presented to Heads of State and Presidents while Heads of Government received a jersey with the number 9.”

Source: ASEAN Thailand 2019, Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and FIFA, Nov. 2, 2019

Duterte was not the only leader to have received a number 10 jersey. Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was also given a jersey with the same number, signifying his status as head of state.

Seven leaders received number nine jerseys — Malaysian Prime Minister (PM) Mahathir Mohamad, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Vietnam PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Laos PM Thongloun Sisoulith, Cambodia PM Hun Sen, and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo got a special number 21 jersey since Jakarta will host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

Uson, formerly assistant communications secretary, has a history of making false claims and spreading fake information. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: A trail of false claims made and fake news shared by Mocha Uson)


Football squad numbers historically ranged from one to 11, and were assigned according to the position of the players. Goalkeepers wore No. 1, while defenders were given the “next lowest numbers, and the forwards…the biggest numbers” or 10 and 11, according to a 2014 Business Insider article.

As the “shape of formations changed” over the years, the numbers “moved in certain patterns,” affecting their “positional meaning,” reported the Dallas Morning News in 2017.

The number 10 then typically became associated with a team’s “playmaker” or the player whose “main job is to organize and control a team’s attacking play.”



Mocha Uson official Facebook page, Astig tlga ni Tatay Digong, Nov. 4, 2019

ASEAN Thailand 2019, Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and FIFA, Nov. 2, 2019, FIFA gave Duterte a number 10 ‘captain’ jersey. He’s not the only one, Nov. 4, 2019

Manila Bulletin, ASEAN leaders get football jerseys as souvenirs, Nov. 4, 2019

Tempo, Duterte gets a souvenir football jersey at ASEAN summit, Nov. 3, 2019

Millar, M. (2012). The Secret Lives of Numbers: The Curious Truth Behind Everyday Digits, Random House

Business Insider, Why So Many Of The World’s Greatest Soccer Players Wear # 10, June 21, 2014

The Dallas Morning News, 20 Years: Why Soccer Numbers Matter, Dec. 8, 2017

Yahoo Sports, Mystery solved: Why do the best soccer players wear No. 10?, June 21, 2014

Cambridge Dictionary, Playmaker


(Guided by the code of principles of the International
Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims,
flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and
debunks them with factual evidence.
Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)