Ceres-Negros FC holds the distinction of being the only Filipino club to reach the knockout stage of the AFC Cup in their history of participation in the tournament proper. One of the biggest factors in the Negrense side’s ability to go far in those international campaigns is none other than Coach Risto Vidaković .
The Serbian head coach has been instrumental in The Busmen’s rise to prominence, making a name not just in Philippine football, where he guided his talented squad to back-to-back PFL championships, but also on the Asian front with some watershed moments and wins against more fancied sides during the AFC Champions League qualifications and AFC Cup tournaments.
Now in the midst of the 2019 season of the AFC Cup, Ceres-Negros once again head into the ASEAN Zone Semifinals. As they gear up for the first leg match against Hanoi FC in Panaad in a fortnight, here are a few words of wisdom and insights from the mentor himself which he shared with the 5th Minute of Added Time right before a training session.
The first thing to be brought up was on what has been Coach Risto’s inspiration on Ceres-Negros’ highly technical approach to the game, to which the gaffer responded that it boils down mainly to the type of players at his disposal.
“It depends on the players. We have that kind of players who are small, but technically good and fast. We cannot (apply) another kind of football because it’s very hard to play long balls if you don’t have tall players so we try instead to play with our build-up and passing game – a playmaking type of football. I just adapt on the type of players that we have.”
With regards to his influences in football, particularly the teams that impacted him the most when it comes to the philosophy and style (or even the culture) of play, Coach Risto responded that it is more of the country that influenced him the most.
“I played a long time in Spain and (been involved with) Spanish football. I’m already (living for) twenty-five years in Spain. I’ve coached there, and I think it’s the country that I bring with me (when it comes to) the style of football. Spanish football is known to be having technical and very good (style of) football.”
Touching on the most influential coaches and managers, Coach Risto was asked on the matter to which he replied by mentioning one name.
“You know, every coach has his own philosophy. The styles of football which are played now, and everywhere… you can choose. You can play defensively, you can play offense-minded football, but everyone also chooses the style (in consideration of the type of) his players.
“It’s up to you what (style) you want to recognize and what you need, and to adapt the best for your players. It’s not easy.
“I had many coaches in my career. One of them is, of course, Luis Aragonés. I learned a lot from him and he is practically the man who built the Spanish National Team that won the European Cup under him and the same team that won the World Cup later and many titles after him. I think he is (the one) who made the team. I was lucky to have him as a coach and I think he influenced me.”
Risto Vidaković may have begun his footballing career in Serbia, reaching such a high level to the point of playing for one of the country’s biggest clubs, Red Star Belgrade, before moving to Spain in 1994. His opportunity to play under the famed Spanish coach, Aragonés, who guided La Roja to the Euro 2008 title, happened during the 1997-98 season in Real Betis where the legendary coach mentored the club for a season.
Lastly, on how he wants to be remembered when it comes to his legacy with Ceres-Negros, Risto Vidaković simply replied:
“I think what we did is already something historic. It’s there. Nobody can change it. What we did for these past three years is not easy – to be in the finals of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone two times in a row (2017, 2018), and this year (2019) when we are on the way to the semifinals against a tough opponent and hopefully be in the finals again… I hope Philippine football can recognize that.
In parting, Ceres-Negros FC’s architect of its seemingly on-going “golden age” in professional club football stated his hopes for the beautiful game in the country.
“I hope Philippine football can grow and it can bring the crowd to the stadiums to watch football because I think the Filipino is very talented for football. I think it’s the perfect sport for the Filipino. Because Filipinos have the perfect profile, they’re fast, and technically very good (with the right training). And I think if we can bring many kids to play football then we don’t have to worry about the future (of the sport).
“But for now, we are still building something that is very far away from (the level that) we need (to be at).”
Head coach Risto Vidaković and his Ceres-Negros FC squad are set to face Hanoi FC for the first leg of the 2019 AFC Cup ASEAN Zone Semifinals on Tuesday, June 18 at the Panaad Stadium while the away leg in Hanoi, Vietnam is set on June 25.
Photo credit: Philippines Football League