football-pitch

OPINION: Double whammy of concerns in Philippine Football

This past weekend has been quite an eventful one for “The Beautiful Game” in the Philippines.

LICENSE TO PLAY – LICENSE DENIED!

With just exactly a week ahead of the kickoff of the Philippine Premier League (PPL), the Philippine Football Federation released an official statement that three clubs, namely Mendiola FC, Philippine Air Force FC, and Espana United have been denied licenses that would technically forfeit their participation in the upcoming league.

The decision can be considered a major concern for now especially for fans as it would mean that the pool competitors in the upcoming domestic league is now further lessened down to five.

Five is such a low number when it comes to competing clubs in a tournament. That’s only one team more for an outright semifinal stage, while two more compared to an outright podium finish. If this proceeds which such a number of teams, then this league is going to be – sorry for the word- nothing else but farce. Chances are, even most school-level intramural tourneys may even boast more teams.

So, will the PPL proceed with just five teams then? Most probably not. Contingencies could come into play for the league to push through with the initial seven clubs (which is already quite a few).

It will be quite an interesting next few days as the PPL gets closer to commencing its maiden season, and the few football fans in the country are surely on a high in terms of the anticipation for the wrong reasons (but it still generates interest, probably).

Also, many fans seem to be pointing the finger to PFF for this issue, but there could be some legitimate reasons behind the denial of licenses. The PPL is still not giving an official statement regarding it and is not airing any reflex negative reactions so they maybe are aware and receptive of the federation’s decision.

In spite of this unpleasant development, here’s to hoping still for the PPL to overcome this challenge and be able to push through with reviving an already ailing domestic club football scene. Because a five team league won’t cut it and may have repercussions that would reach the country’s standing when it comes to eligibility of Filipino clubs to compete in the AFC competitions.

THE PLIGHT OF OUR FOOTBALLING YOUTH

On other fronts, the Philippine U-23 Team has just completed two matches in the ongoing AFC U-23 qualification tournament in Malaysia. So far, the results have been far from desirable (diplomatically speaking). 

The team opened its campaign with a 3-0 defeat against hosts Malaysia. The scoreline may have been a dominant one for the hosts on paper but actually, Malaysia were lackluster. They could have scored more if not for some squandered gilt-edged chances. 

And with goalkeeper, Michael Asong, the best player for the Philippines in that match with several key saves, it tells a lot that the national team could be in for a very long day come their next match against China.

Indeed, it has been a nightmare that won’t be easily forgotten against the East Asian powerhouse made it a no-contest with an 8-0 mauling, putting the Filipino squad virtually out of the running to qualify for the main event in Thailand.

With such a lopsided result and a doomed campaign after just two fixtures, the hard fact comes to the forefront once again: The Philippine football setup for the youth is far from ideal to produce an internationally competitive squad.

The current team is mainly composed of student athletes in a program that is not football-centric in terms of development.

Our players, naturally gifted and physically sound as they are, are still raw when it comes to competitiveness in junior international levels.

We may have Dylan de Bruycker, Jordan Jarvis, Dean Ebarle and Troy Limbo who have experience in football academies and/or professional level, but they won’t suffice if the opposition are already in reserve or even starters (even stars) in their respective senior club teams. It’s actually a no-brainer. The difference in quality is obvious on the pitch!

For now, it’s no wonder that the senior team, the Azkals, still scout overseas-based eligible players to play for the squad.

The longer one sees the current situation of Philippine youth football, the more it seems like a “chicken and egg” scenario. It’s not even a grassroots thing. The problem lies in the transition from grassroots to the elite level. The setup to bridge that gap is where the challenge lies.

Presently, typical local-based young Filipino footballers playing either in the streets or grassroots programs who have potential to take their talents to the next level just don’t have the means to receive sustained training and development to being an elite or professional unless they have the financial means to go overseas for trials in the hopes of being accepted into academies.

Only Filipinos, or kids with Filipino heritage, based overseas (mainly in a footballing nation) can have such an opportunity to be able to further their footballing abilities and qualities towards a more advanced phase.

Currently, there are football training centers locally that are starting to raise the bar in terms of developing talent, but they are still far from the levels of other footballing nations (even in comparison to our Southeast Asian neighbors).

So, it seems the domination of local born-and-raised talents in the national teams is still far from happening. It might even occur that our youth squads will have the same setup as the senior side in the near future.

A “Chieffy” Caligdong doesn’t come by regularly (Jovin Bedic could be at closest thing at the moment), while chances for a Pinoy kid lighting up the streets somewhere in the province being discovered and plucked by a massive foreign club is quite impossible yet at this point in time.

Until we produce youths who went up the ranks in the football development ladder and not through the usual (at least in the Philippines) school varsity system, expect our junior national football teams to get regularly schooled in international football.

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Azkals overseas: Patino, Palla face Falkesgaard in mouthwatering T1 clash

After the midweek AFC Cup action involving two Filipino clubs, it’s now time to focus on Filipino football players in overseas leagues as they play their respective fixtures this third weekend of March 2019.

The match that could gain the most attention for Filipino football fans might be in Thailand as Bangkok United, with Azkals Michael Falkesgaard as their main goalkeeper, host Buriram United, who have Javier Patino and Stephan Palla in their ranks in a clash between league contenders.

(Kickoff schedules are in Philippine Standard Time)

Daisuke Sato, DF – Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe [Romanian Liga I Playoff]

Sepsi OSK vs Universitatea Craiova: March 16, Saturday at 2:30AM

John-Patrick Strauss, MF – FC Erzgebirge Aue [German 2. Bundesliga]

Holstein Kiel vs Erzgebirge Aue: March 16, Saturday at 1:30AM

Kevin Ray Mendoza, GK – AC Horsens [Danish Superliga]

AC Horsens vs Brondby IF: March 18, Monday at 12:00AM

Jordan Jarvis, DF – Eastern Long Lions [Hong Kong Premier League]

Hoi King vs Eastern: March 17, Sunday at 2:30PM

Hikaru Minegishi, MF – JL Chiangmai United [Thai League 2 (T2)]

Nongbua Pitchaya vs JL Chiangmai United: March 16, Saturday at 9:00PM

THAI LEAGUE 1 (T1)

Marco Casambre, DF and Adam Reed, MF – Chainat Hornbill

Prachuap vs Chainat Hornbill: March 15, Friday at 9:00PM

Michael Falkesgaard, GK – Bangkok United vs Javier Patino, FW and Stephan Palla, DF – Buriram United

Bangkok United vs Buriram United: March 17, Sunday at 8:00PM

Mark Hartmann, FW – Suphanburi FC

Suphanburi vs Chonburi: March 16, Saturday at 7:00PM

Amin Nazari MF and Manuel Ott, MF* – Ratchaburi Mitr Phol

Chiangmai FC vs Ratchaburi Mitr Phol: March 16, Saturday at 6:45PM

Iain Ramsay, MF – Sukhothai FC

Pattaya United vs Sukhothai: March 17, Sunday at 7:00PM

*Manuel Ott is still recovering from a shin injury.

Photo credits: Buriram United, Bangkok United

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AFC Cup: Ceres and Kaya players top goalscoring chart after Matchday 2

Five players from Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC Iloilo have made the Top 10 goalscoring chart after two rounds of fixtures in the AFC Cup 2019 group stage.

Matchday 2 in the ASEAN Zone has been one to savor for Filipino football fans as both Philippine club representatives notch convincing wins in their respective assignments.

First up, Ceres-Negros notched their second win in as many matches with a 3-1 scoreline as Bienvenido Maranon scored a hat-trick away against Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong last Tuesday, March 12, at the Go Dau Stadium.

On Wednesday afternoon (March 13), Kaya Iloilo attains its first win of the campaign in emphatic fashion as they thumped Singapore’s Home United 5-0 in their designated home ground, the Panaad Stadium, as Darryl Roberts (2′, 37′) and Alfred Osei (49′, 55′) score two goals each while team captain Jovin Bedic also saw the back of the net off a 33rd minute effort.

Such results put five players from both Filipino clubs into the top ten goalscoring chart according to AFC.

Maranon’s hat-trick puts him in joint top spot with four goals in total alongside Al Wehdat forward Baha’ Seif and Hanoi FC striker Ganiyu Oseni.

Jovin Bedic, Alfred Osei and Darryl Roberts round up the scorers’ table alongside Ceres-Negros winger OJ Porteria, who scored two goals in the opener against Shan United last February 26, with two goals each.

AFC Cup official goalscoring stats

From a team standpoint, both Filipino clubs also make waves in the scoring department as their respective outputs put them tied in fourth place with six goals scored in total for each.

Although, it is still very much early in the group phase, the positive results for both clubs in their respective Matchday 2 give them a head-start, putting them in a promising position as they aim to progress to the knockout phase.

Standings for both Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC Iloilo’s respective groups

Despite firing “yellow warnings” to oppositions, both Filipino clubs are up for mouthwatering clashes as Ceres-Negros host Indonesian giants and champions Persija Jakarta in Panaad on April 3 at 7:30PM, while Kaya travel to South Sulawesi in Indonesia to face Liga I runners-up PSM Makassar on April 2 at 4:00PM.

Both matches will be shown via ESPN5’s 5Plus and FOX Sports Asia channels.

Photo credits: AFC Cup

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Azkals overseas: Grommen likely in bench; Ramsay and Hartmann face off in T1

Another busy set of fixtures are set this second weekend of March 2019 for overseas-based Philippine Azkals.

However, according to source, PJ City’s regular starting defender Joshua Grommen is expected to be in the bench against Perak in Malaysia Super League on Saturday as precaution ahead of the two-week break to rest his injured shoulder after almost aggravating it once again in the previous match against Kedah.

Meanwhile Iain Ramsay of Sukhothai FC and Suphanburi forward Mark Hartmann clash in Thai League 1.

Here are the list of fixtures of the Azkals playing in different leagues overseas (All kickoff schedules are in Philippine Standard Time) :

Neil Etheridge, GK – Cardiff City FC [Premier League]

Cardiff City vs West Ham: March 9, Saturday at 11:00PM

Daisuke Sato, DF – Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe [Romanian Liga I]

CFR Cluj vs Sepsi OSK: March 10, Sunday at 2:15AM

John-Patrick Strauss, MF – FC Erzgebirge Aue [2. Bundesliga (Germany)]

Erzgebirge Aue vs Paderborn: March 9, Saturday at 8:00PM

Kevin Ray Mendoza, GK – AC Horsens [Danish Superliga]

Randers vs Horsens: March 10, Sunday at 7:00PM

Amani Aguinaldo, DF – PKNP [Malaysia Super League]

JDT vs PKNP: March 9, Saturday at 9:00PM

Joshua Grommen, DF – PJ City FC [Malaysia Super League]

Perak vs PJ City: March 9, Saturday at 9:00PM

Patrick Reichelt, MF/FW, Melaka United [Malaysia Super League]

Terengganu vs Melaka United: March 9, Saturday at 9:00PM

Luke Woodland, MF/DF – Kuala Lumpur FA [Malaysia Super League]

Kuala Lumpur vs Selangor: March 10, Sunday at 9:00PM

Hikaru Minegishi, MF – JL Chiangmai United [Thai League 2 (T2)]

Air Force Central FC vs JL Chiangmai United: March 9, Saturday at 6:45PM

Marco Casambre, DF; Adam Reed, MF – Chainat Hornbill [Thai League 1 (T1)]

Chainat Hornbill vs Singha Chiangrai United: March 9, Saturday at 9:00PM

Michael Falkesgaard, GK – Bangkok United [Thai League 1 (T1)]

Trat FC vs Bangkok United: March 9, Saturday at 6:45PM

Ian Ramsay, MF – Sukhothai FC and Mark Hartmann, FW – Suphanburi FC [Thai League 1 (T1)]

Sukhothai vs Suphanburi: March 10, Sunday at 7:00PM

Amin Nazari MF; Manuel Ott, MF – Ratchaburi Mitr Phol [Thai League 1 (T1)]

Ratchaburi Mitr Phol vs Nakhonratchasima Mazda: March 9, Saturday at 8:00PM

Stephan Palla DF; Javier Patino, FW – Buriram United [Thai League 1 (T1)]

Buriram United vs PT Prachuap: March 9, Saturday at 7:00PM

Image credits: Felda United FC, Suphanburi FC, Sukhothai FC

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Green Archers United and Mendiola FC unveil kits for PPL

Green Archers United and Mendiola FC 1991 prepare their return to domestic club football’s top-flight after years of hiatus as they unveil their respective kits for the inaugural PPL season.

With the design reveals of both clubs, comes one word: Anticipation. The reason is both teams came up with equally mouthwatering designs that will definitely pique their supporters’, or even football kit collectors’ interests to purchase the shirts that their players will wear on the pitch.

Green Archers partner with a local kit supplier, Cutz Apparel, that is founded just this 2018 according to the company’s Facebook page. But, despite being a new player in the kit business, their designs for the Weekend Futbol League – Elite champions for their maiden PPL season are quite solid.

As for Mendiola, their kit supplier is Indonesia-based FAT Sportswear, which initially was focused on goalkeeping equipment, mainly gloves, before expanding on football apparels.

FAT’s first foray into the Philippine club football scene happened last year when they supplied the gloves of Filipino goalkeepers Louie Casas [currently of Kaya Iloilo] and Ronilo Bayan Jr. [currently of Ceres-Negros].

And with the initial designs released by FAT Sportswear, it seems Mendiola FC 1991 may have taken the driver’s seat in terms of ‘kit aesthetics’ department.

Without further delay, here are the kit designs of both clubs:

Green Archers United

Mendiola FC 1991

As of this writing, it is not yet known if these on-pitch outfits will be available for purchase to fans but let’s hope they hit the shelves soon!

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Azkals overseas: March 2019 weekend 1 fixtures

A new month is upon us. Here are the fixtures of Philippine internationals who are playing in overseas leagues this weekend.

Note: All schedules are in Philippine Standard Time

Neil Etheridge, GK – Cardiff City FC [Premier League]

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Cardiff City FC: March 2, Saturday at 11:00PM

Daisuke Sato, DF – Sepsi OSK [Romanian Liga I Playoff]

CFR Cluj vs Sepsi OSK: March 4, Monday at 2:00AM

John Patrick Strauss, MF – Erzgebirge Aue [2. Bundesliga]

SV Sandhausen vs Erzgebirge Aue: March 2, Saturday at 8:00PM

Kevin Ray Mendoza, GK – AC Horsens [Danish Superliga]

Esbjerg vs AC Horsens – March 3, Sunday at 1:00AM

Jordan Jarvis, DF – Eastern [Hong Kong Premier League]

Sun Pegasus vs Eastern – March 2, Saturday at 8:00PM

Amani Aguinaldo, DF – PKNP [Malaysia Super League]

PKNP vs Pahang – March 2, Saturday at 9:00PM

Joshua Grommen, DF – PJ City FC [Malaysia Super League]

Felda United vs PJ City FC – March 2, Saturday at 9:00PM

Patrick Reichelt, MF – Melaka United vs Luke Woodland, DF – Kuala Lumpur FA [Malaysia Premier League]

Melaka United vs Kuala Lumpur – March 3, Sunday at 9:00PM

Hikaru Minegishi, MF – JL Chiangmai United [Thai League 2]

JL Chiangmai United vs BG Pathum United – March 3, Sunday at 7:00PM

Mark Hartmann, FW – Suphanburi vs Javier Patino, FW & Stephan Palla, DF – Buriram United [Thai League 1]

DONE: Suphanburi 0 – 0 Buriram United – March 1, Friday at 8:00PM

Michael Falkesgaard, GK – Bangkok United [Thai League 1]

Bangkok United vs Muangthong United – March 2, Saturday at 8:00PM

Iain Ramsay, MF – Sukhothai [Thai League 1]

Chiangmai vs Sukhothai – March 2, Saturday at 9:00PM

Marco Casambre, DF & Adam Reed, MF – Chainat Hornbill [Thai League 1]

Trat vs Chainat Hornbill – March 3, Sunday at 7:00PM

Amin Nazari, MF & Manuel Ott, MF – Ratchaburi Mitr Phol [Thai League 1]

Port FC vs Ratchaburi Mitr Phol – March 3, Sunday at 8:00PM

Photo credits: Buriram United Facebook, Suphanburi Facebook, Sukhothai Facebook, Melaka United Facebook, Neil Etheridge Instagram,

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Seven teams vie to be PH club football’s best in inaugural PPL season

On March 1, 2019, the Philippine Premier League (PPL) formally announced that seven teams will compete in its first season which is set to begin on March 30.

Three of the clubs are from the now defunct PFL, or Philippines Football League, namely defending champions Ceres-Negros, cup champions Kaya Iloilo, and Stallion Laguna.

One club comes in as reincarnation and a rebrand of a financially beleaguered club, Global Cebu, in the form of United Makati after a change of name and sponsorship.

What’s interesting though are the addition of three clubs: Green Archers United, Mendiola FC 1991, and Philippine Air Force.

These three organizations may be newcomers to the PPL, but they have very much been a part of competitive club football scene in the country in the recently past especially during the United Football League (UFL) era.

Green Archers United was founded by football players of De La Salle University in 1998. The club is about to join the fray in the professional level with much optimism after emerging as convincing champions in the semi-professional Weekend Futbol League’s Elite Division in late 2018.

Meanwhile, Mendiola FC has been in existence since 1991 (as shown in their updated formal name of Mendiola FC 1991) being closely affiliated with San Beda University and its well-known football varsity programs.

The club might have been on hiatus for quite a bit when it comes to competing in the semi-professional and professional levels after their forays in the UFL, but such a situation adds mystery and anticipation on how they will compete in their return to the domestic top-flight.

Lastly, the Philippine Air Force FC returns to the pitch once again after being one of the major forces and constants in Philippine football through the years particularly in the early phase of the UFL.

Producing homegrown football heroes such as Ian Araneta and Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong, The Airmen garnered a solid following back in the day and it will be exciting to see such a core of supporters back again on the terraces to be the 12th man of the storied club.

The Philippine Premier League kicks off its season on Saturday, March 30, with a double header at the Rizal Memorial Stadium with the first match at 4:00PM while the second fixture will be at 7:00PM. The 7:00PM match will be shown live on ESPN5 Plus and will also be available via online stream.