With Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA) Cup set to begin on May 29, one thing is for certain with regards to this tournament: This is a focused competition that targets top Under-13 teams in the country and their prospects for a chance to make it at the highest level domestically and internationally.
Now in its fourth edition (the cup began in 2015, only missing out on 2016), the yearly 9-a-side cup competition is an invitational for teams (whether clubs or academic institutions) with the strongest footballing programs to win, arguably, one of the heftiest titles in domestic grassroots-level football in terms of bragging rights.
Winning teams and stellar individuals from other squads could be picked to represent the country this August in the 2019 Soong Ching Ling Cup in Bejing that will be bankrolled by NOFA itself. As for the individual level, players who stood out will have a chance to be picked by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) into its junior national team training pool and a roadmap to the pinnacle for every Filipino footballer: Being part of the Azkals.
Most competitive NOFA Cup to date
This 2019 edition will be contested by 24 teams (the most in its history – eight from Luzon, 11 from the Visayas and five from Mindanao) with several teams possessing fair amounts of footballing pedigrees respectively.
A special participant is set to grace the pitch too in the identity of Marawi Ground Zero – a team composed of young boys from the recently war-torn region of Marawi City which will serve as inspiration and hope through football despite the ravages of conflict.
The competition pool will be divided into four groups of six, assuring each team of at least five matches in the group phase before heading into the knockouts.
This year’s NOFA Cup is about to boast its most stringent level of officiating as it will introduce the offside rule to expose young players to the highest required level of play possible.
The only additional difference NOFA Cup has compared to the 11-a-side football is there is no limit for the number of substitutions in consideration of the age bracket of participants and the possible weather conditions during the tournament proper.
Bigger plans and purpose
Currently, the Philippine Azkals – the country’s senior and most elite national football team – are represented mostly by Filipinos who spent their developmental years in terms of skillsets in footballing nations.
Although there are a few exceptional homegrown talents who are part of the team that was able to reach the semifinals stage of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and participate in the 2019 Asian Cup, there is a need to increase the influx of homegrown footballers that can reach the highest level. This is what the association is exactly aiming for – by contributing to the progression of the quality players from the grassroots level by uplifting the technical skills and knowledge of young local footballers through this competition.
From the words of NOFA Cup founder and President, Mr. Ricky Yanson, “We belive that to improve football in the Philippines, grassroots is the long-term solution.”
To further emphasize the seriousness that the association has in contributing towards the increase in the level of footballing talent in the country, PFF youth/grassroots representatives will be in the tournament to scout players who could be part of the training pool for future junior national teams.
Sustaining what has been started
With the 2019 edition about to begin with participating teams already determined and registration well-closed since February it is to note as shared by NOFA Cup organizer, Mr. Andrew Infante, that other teams are still interested to join.
With the cup slated to have a 2020 edition, Mr. Infante informed that for those who are interested, registration will happen way in advance and will most likely commence on January until February next year so preparation is key.
Also, NOFA has big plans in the pipeline for a more competitive and nationwide cup competition in the future when the tournament won’t be invitational anymore, but be a national-level tournament instead that will be determined by an elimination process in the local level up until a grand champion is determined.
The NOFA Cup will be held in the Sta. Maria Football Field in Talisay City (near Bacolod) which is right beside the tourist landmark, The Ruins.
Joining the tournament has no fees. Just a 10,000-peso deposit that will be returned in full* after the tournament. Subsidy will also be included amounting to 500-pesos per day for each player. The only requirement is, the teams should be ready to give 100% talent and effort in their respective quests to be the best.
* Php 5,000.00 of the Php 10,000.00 deposit will be returned to the team upon arrival in the tournament. The remaining Php 5,000.00 will serve as security for the duration of the cup from which possible fees for tournament-related fines from in-game violations (if there are any) are deducted and the remaining amount will be returned to the team upon completion of its participation.
For more updates about the NOFA Cup, please visit Negros Occidental Football Association’s Facebook page.