Shots Fired: Meet Sagay City FC’s lethal wonder-kid

As the home team, Sagay City FC completed its campaign triumphantly in the recently concluded 2nd Marañon Youth Cup, one kid stood out from within their ranks with a bang.

The way this 16-year-old lighted up the pitch with his explosive presence earned him the MVP award in unanimous fashion, creating and scoring at will for his squad en-route to seizing the trophy against well-matched opposition from other parts of the country. This special talent goes by a very distinct, perhaps even fitting, name: Shiorenel Baril.

During the course of the four-day tournament, Shiorenel caught the eye of both spectators and organisers due to his sheer talent as testified by some of the several who witnessed him play.

“Ambilis, anlakas ng upper-body (strength) tapos deadly finisher,” as attested by Jan Gozon, who was able to watch Shiorenel operate inside the pitch.

Banking on his lethal combination of speed, and (most especially) his finishing Shionerel (who goes by the nickname “Zoren”) proved himself not only to his team but also the entire tournament as a promising player that made him the undisputed MVP.

His contributions to his squad have been crucial both as a scorer and, more importantly, as a creator with his two goals and three assists.

A true son of Sagay City, Zoren came from a modest provincial background being the fifth child out of eight siblings. He hailed from a family of fisher-folks, and Zoren himself even helps his father out in fishing. His rooted and very relatable upbringing makes him a true hometown hero on the rise for Sagay.

Currently playing exclusively for Sagay, Zoren shared through an on-line chat that he has been with the team since last year’s successful Pinas Cup and Batang Pinoy campaigns.

When asked what his targets in football are career-wise, Zoren’s response was (true to his on-pitch winning aura) short yet direct.

“(Gusto ko po) maging isang sikat na manlalaro.”

With a can-do attitude and his undeniable talent, Shiorenel “Zoren” Baril has a lot of promise ahead of him. And if there is someone he can emulate in terms of reaching the heights as a young Filipino footballer, he doesn’t need to look further as he can follow the path of fellow Negrense, Shanden Vergara.

Although the journey ahead for his budding yet truly promising career in the beautiful game won’t be easy, if he is able to scale and hurdle through the challenges ahead, a new nickname might already be waiting for him to be seized exclusively as his.

Pistol.

Photo credit: Shiorenel Baril’s Facebook page

Copa Alcantara: Ceres-Negros deals Young Azkals’ first loss

An unrelenting second half from the undefeated Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros dealt the Azkals U22 their first loss in the Copa Paulino Alcantara with a 2-1 scoreline.

The first half started with the national squad showing a more positive approach with their pressing gameplay spearheaded by Chima Uzoka as the focal point in attack.

The Philippines 11 also came up with lively support from both wings as Mariano Suba and Yrick Gallantes providing the pace from both flanks.

After the quarter of an hour Ceres were able to settle a bit into their gameplay producing some half-chances which goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus was able to deal with.

The Young Azkals continued to push forth with their relentless pressing and pace with Jasrvey Gayoso also providing additional threat with an occasional chance.

The breakthrough arrived in the half hour mark with the pacy Yrick Gallantes finding the back of the net off a rebound from his own initial attempt with Gayoso as provider.

With the deadlock, broken the Under-22 side continued with their probing while Ceres came up, uncharacteristically, with a few opportunities with Maranon trying to create something from deep.

But Gallantes’ conversion proved to be the difference in the first half as time expired with the Philippine Team enjoying a slim lead heading into the break.

A different situation transpired early in the second half as Ceres-Negros quickly seized the proceedings by imposing themselves to great effect.

Robert Lopez Mendy suddenly came to life sparking his team up front. But it was Dylan De Bruycker who gave the Busmen a crucial lifeline in the 51st minute by burying the equaliser from an angle that beat U22 captain Pinthus for the first time.

Ceres-Negros seemed to have smelled blood after the leveller as Mike Ott saw an attempt go wide of the far post while Mendy had two chances in the in the 67th and 74th minute.

Four minutes before the 90th minute Ceres-Negros found the go-ahead goal as Mendy headed Angelo Verheye’s assist from the left flank.

The Young Azkals tried to claw back for a draw, attacking with much intent but it wasn’t meant to be with Ceres even having a chance to increase their lead late in the match only for Pinthus to come up with an excellent save to deny OJ Porteria from point-blank range.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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Sagay City FC prove superior in 2019 Marañon Youth Cup

Host team Sagay City FC seized the 2nd Marañon Youth Cup championship after besting STI-West Negros University 2-1 in a closely contested final of the four-day tournament held in SNHS football ground in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last October 30.

A goal by Ryan Monares and Rohderick Rodriguez for Sagay proved enough to cancel STI -West Negros’ conversion by Zacharry Lacson to go all the way and earn the top prize.

The final result though may have put a dampener for STI-West Negros’ campaign which got a major haul of the individual honours as Chester Alipoon got the top-scorer award with four goals under his name while Arnulfo Urbon and Alexander Realino won the best midfielder and goalkeeper respectively.

The championship trophy proved to be doubly sweet though for wonder-kid Shiorenel Baril who also won the MVP plaudits after a memorable tournament as well as Japeth Mermida who was deemed as the best defender.

A total of nine teams, made up of school varsity and local amateur clubs, participated in the competition that transpired from October 26 to 30.

The tournament started in a two-group elemination phase where qualified teams headed into the knockouts starting with the quarterfinals until the ultimate decider.

A notable participation of Ateneo de Manila High School, all the way from the National Capital Region, ended in third place after beating Ilonggo Young Booters FC of Barotac by a score of 2-0.

Ateneo’s contention for the title ended in the semifinals when they suffered a narrow 1-0 loss at the hands of STI – West Negros University.

Also, a consolation plate competition was won by Central Philippine University FC after defeating Sigay FC by a 2-0 scoreline.

The 2019 Marañon Youth Cup is the second edition of the tournament hosted by Sagay City, Negros Occidental. It is a tournament for competitive club and varsity teams at the youth level as part of its football development program for the benefit of its local youth and is founded by Sagay City Mayor Alfredo “Thirdy” D. Marañon III with the help of Ceres-Negros FC.

Follow Sagay Football’s Facebook page for announcements on future competitions.

Photo credit: Sagay Football/Jan Eleven Gozon

Azkals U22 in Copa Alcantara serves as preview for 2019 SEA Games

The Philippines U22 squad’s opener in the Copa Paulino Alcantara served as a glimpse of what is in store for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) campaign this late November.

Speaking to the media after getting a 1-0 win in their first assignment against Green Archers United and finding themselves as early leaders in Group A, Azkals team manager Dan Palami shared his thoughts on the considerable number of spectators for the cup match that was held last October 27 in Aboitiz Pitch.

“I’m glad the fans came over and I’m happy that they got their preview of what is to come (this SEA Games).”

However, Palami was quick to point out that the list of players comprising the squad for the cup is not yet a confirmation that it will be a hundred percent the same come the biennial meet.

“I mean it’s not the final lineup yet. We’ll trim (the list) down to 20. We still have two players coming from the senior team (which will fill the slots for) the over-age players,” shared the Azkals’ boss.

During their opener last weekend, it was to note that the team expects additional players (at least two more) overseas-based who coming with the hopes of playing a part in the cup.

“Some of the players who are part of this (Copa Alcantara) team are yet to arrive, like Marco Casambre (of Thai club Chainat Hornbill) and Christian Rontini (of Italy’s Sangiovannese 1927).”

With a big pool of talents being considered for the final cut in the SEA Games, Dan Palami is expecting an intense battle for spots from the players.

“I think everybody can see that (each player) wants to play, that is why they are working hard to be part of the team,” Palami added further.

Under-22 assistant coach Ernest Nierras also stated on a separate interview that other players are also still in consideration for the final SEA Games squad, confirming that changes can still occur and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the spots.

One particular player who has been a constant participant in the junior squad, but is not in the U22 lineup this Copa Alcantara is Ceres-Negros’ Dylan De Bruycker.

“(De Bruycker) wasn’t released by Ceres for this competition. That’s the only reason.”

Coach Nierras further informed that aside from De Bruycker, more players – overseas-based – are still in the process of being considered for the SEA Games squad who were not able to be part of the Copa simply because of their commitments with their respective clubs.

“There are still five players (based overseas) who are not here (that are being eyed).

“We are gonna field the best team that we can put together (for the Southeast Asian Games).”

The Azkals U22 are about to face their sternest test yet in their 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara participation as they face undefeated league champions Ceres-Negros who are aiming to bounce back from their lacklustre draw in their cup opener against Mendiola FC. Match kicks off at 4PM in Binan Football Stadium.

Meanwhile Mendiola FC and Green Archers continue their cup campaign as they face off in Aboitiz pitch followed by Philippine Air Force and Stallion Laguna in an evening kickoff on the same venue.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Copa Alcantara: Azkals U22 can still improve – Palami

After putting their 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara campaign off to a positive start, Azkals team manager Dan Palami believes there is still a lot to improve for the Under-22 (U22) squad.

Speaking to the media after the his side’s slim 1-0 win over Green Archers United that signalled the beginning of their cup campaign, the national team boss noted that there are still several elements that needed adjustments in their game and is still quite not yet near the finished article required for the Southeast Asian Games.

“I could say from that game (against Green Archers that) there are a lot of positives, but we have to make sure that (we cover) all the details.

“We made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of lapses and we were not consistent throughout the game.”

Despite the straightforward assessment by the manager on the things that needed improvement, Palami still provided an air of optimism due to the immense potential shown by the young national squad.

“Even then (with the inconsistencies), we were able to get the win so if we are able to fix those bad habits, then I’m sure we’ll be a stronger team and that’s what we are going to aim for in the next games.”

Meanwhile, Stallion Laguna head coach Ernest Nierras, who is also part of the U22 coaching staff as one of the assistants heaped praise to his young wards who were able to show fortitude especially on the defensive end late in the match, when the Archers (who impressed in their debut season in the PFL) mustered a late concerted effort to find an equalizer to no avail.

“These (U22) players… they were fighting like crazy! Chima (at forward, was) going after everything. The back four played so well. (Anthony) Pinthus (at goal) was amazing,” shared Nierras of the national team.

“We created some chances, which is important. But the important thing was the attitude of the players. We kept on going (throughout the match). So that was important.”

Up Next: The Invincibles

The important result put the Young Azkals flatteringly in the drivers’ seat of the four-team pool that comprises Group A.

However, the team knows that a much tougher task is up ahead as they are about to face undefeated league champions Ceres-Negros who will look to bounce back after squandering a two-goal lead to end their opener against Mendiola in a draw.

“We have to play our game,” said Palami on the prospect of facing The Busmen on Wednesday.

“We can’t expect Ceres-Negros (in the cup) to be (lesser in strength than their league form). I’m sure they have a lot of pride and they would want to make sure that get this win (against us)… It’s going to be a good test match for our U22 (and) I think we could give them a good fight.”

Philippines U22 will next face Ceres-Negros in Group A of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara on Wednesday, October 30, at 4PM in Binan Football Stadium.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Azkals U22 show promise after win in Copa Alcantara opener

The Philippines Under-22 team achieves a positive start in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara after getting a slim but important 1-0 result against Green Archers United in Aboitiz Pitch last October 27.

Assembling its most formidable squad yet, The Azkals management released the list in the morning of matchday which showed a good balance of collegiate standouts and professionals both based locally and abroad.

Meanwhile, right before kickoff, Green Archers fielded a capable starting 11 that has been their staple during their impressive league debut to face against a national squad lineup brimming with talent.

As the opening whistle was blown, the Under-22 side were able to enjoy most of the possession in the early proceedings. However, Green Archers produced the closest breakthrough when John Celiz hit the crossbar in only the eighth minute of the match through a counterattack.

The Young Azkals eventually had their first promising chance of the match when Chima Uzoka almost put his side in front only to see his effort go wide of the left post.

Green Archers eventually settled into the match and found their rhythm as well to produce their own spell of ball possession and building some counterattacking plays.

Paolo Bugas saw his freekick for the Archers go over the bar in the 31st minute while Uzoka saw another attempt go agonizingly wide of the far post in the 34th minute as the dynamics of the match went back and forth a bit for both competing teams.

Late in the half, Jarvey Gayoso and Jimuel Ariola had chances for the Philippines and Green Archers respectively through set-pieces, but the opening goal did not arrive as both teams headed into the break in a deadlock.

Five minutes after the restart, the Philippine team eventually got the much needed breakthrough when Chima Uzoka rose highest to meet Jerome Marzan’s corner kick with a header which went past Henri Bandeken’s outstretched arms.

The lead added a momentary boost to Azkals U22 as another headed effort, this time, from Yrick Gallantes almost got in, only to be denied by the right post.

Green Archers had chances to restore parity with an inspired Jimuel Ariola creating chances but debuting goalkeeper and team captain Anthony Pinthus did well with his custodian duties.

A late shuffle by coach Joel Villarino, opting for an all-out attack, came up empty handed as Pinthus pulled off at least two timely saves late in the match to earn the Young Azkals a positive start to their cup campaign.

Jarvey Gayoso had two late attempts that could have doubled the lead of the national team but Bandeken Fong did well to deny the effort as the clash ended in a 1-0 win for the Philippines U22.

Holders ran riot, Invincibles held

Saturday’s opening fixtures saw a bit of contrasting fortunes for the Philippines’ top two clubs with cup holders Kaya starting their title defense with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Air Force.

Jayson Panhay (29′), Connor Tacagni (37′) and Marwin Angeles (69′) each found the back of the net once while Kenshiro Daniels (33′, 62′) scored a brace to put Coach Noel Marcaida’s men to an early comfortable lead in Group B.

Meanwhile, newly-crowned undefeated 2019 league champions Ceres-Negros squandered a two-goal cushion to end up with a 2-2 draw against a resilient Mendiola FC side.

Robert Mendy’s first-half brace (4′, 31′) were eventually cancelled out as Hamed Hadjimehdi (45+1′) and Papuh Corsame (64′) provided the much needed response for both teams to end up sharing the spoils.

Despite the disappointing draw, Ceres still maintains an undefeated 2019 domestic season and are still in the running. Mendiola meanwhile definitely gets a massive boost with the way they unearthed a result against a firm favorite to reach at least a semifinal spot.

From a neutral standpoint, the draw sets up a possibly interesting scenario for the teams involved when it comes to surviving out of Group A and into the cup semis.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Titleholders Ceres, Kaya see action in 2019 Copa Alcantara opener

Fresh from achieving an undefeated campaign en-route to an unprecedented three-peat, PFL champions Ceres-Negros face Mendiola FC while Kaya FC Iloilo begin their title defence against Air Force in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara on Saturday, October 25 and October 26.

Can it be double-delight for the Busmen?

Ceres-Negros’ already milestone-laden campaign could be further consolidated if they can win the Copa, in addition to the league trophy, for a domestic “double” that has never been achieved before at least in the professional era of Philippine football.

However, The Busmen‘s first assignment could prove to be a challenging one as they are up against a promising Mendiola FC 1991 side which were able to acquire reinforcements in key positions during the midseason transfer window.

A lacklustre and inconsistent campaign from Coach Dan Padernal’s men in the league could be enough motivation for a much improved performance as they try to claim the scalp of the much celebrated and trailblazing Ceres 11.

Back-to-back cups beckon for Kaya

Defending cup champions Kaya FC Iloilo are looking to repeat their triumph in the Copa Paulino Alcantara to maintain their AFC Cup participation and and set an early claim to be the Philippines’ Cup Kings.

After failing to unseat what proved to be a mightier Ceres side in the 2019 edition of the league, Coach Noel Marcaida and his wards will definitely go all-out to come up with their second silverware in the professional era in Philippine football.

Kaya’s opener might proved to be a tricky one though as they face a seemingly manageable Air Force squad, but Head Coach Leo Jaena and the rest of his Airmen will use the one-off nature of the cup as an opportunity for a monumental giant-killing.

Azkals U22 debut against dangerous Archers

The nation’s representatives in the upcoming 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be hosted in Manila will finally begin the most crucial part of their preparations for the biennial games as they’re set to face a stern test against Green Archers United, competing as guests in the Copa Alcantara.

2018 Weekend Futbol League champions, Archers, proved that they belong in Philippine football’s top-tier after finishing fourth out of the seven-team PFL in the 2019 season with positive win-loss and goal difference records, making them the undisputed best performing debutants.

All eyes will most likely be on this fixture as a rare matchup between a national team and a progressive club showing strong signs of possible ascendancy will definitely spark the interest of any football fan.

The 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara opens this weekend with Kaya vs Air Force happening on Saturday October 26 at 4PM followed by Ceres vs Mendiola at 7PM. Green Archers United vs Philippines U22 will be on Sunday, October 27 at 4PM. All matches will be hosted in Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa, Batangas.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

snowbadgers-shanden-vergara-azkals-u22

Snow Badgers Filipino homegrown Shanden Vergara carves path in US Soccer

Former De La Salle University footballer Shanden Vergara is starting to realize his potential overseas as he makes a mark in his ongoing first season with Snow College in Utah, United States.

Once a vital creative force for the Green Archers in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 81, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental took a chance to further his development in the United States when he qualified for a scholarship with Snow College this 2019.

The academic institution, also known as the Badgers in athletic events, is competing in the Division I of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

Commendable debut

Upon enrollment for the fall 2019 season, Shanden immediately suited up in time for the Division I conference campaign where he was utilized in different positions either in midfield or defense.

In 10 appearances, as of this writing, Shanden was able to start for seven matches scoring two goals and bagging three assists – the most for his team – as per the NJCAA official tally.

Listed as a sophomore for the Badgers, Shanden still has around two years left to compete in college or university level. And if he can continue or even surpass his current form, then he may catch the eyes of talent-scouts in the country for a shot at competing at the highest level of football in the US – the Major League Soccer.

Still in the thick of it

Though the preliminaries has just recently concluded, the remainder of 2019 is still crucial and busy for Shanden’s maiden season, with the campaign still far from done after Snow College finished strong in its conference to earn a playoffs spot.

“(Our team) finished second in the Scenic West Athletic Conference,” shared Shanden to 5th Minute of Added Time via online chat.

“The season is not over yet because there’s still the playoffs in a couple of weeks ( with schedules still to be confirmed) where we play against the top three teams of the conference for the semifinals.”

The immediate playoffs serve as the semifinals where Snow is set to face third placed Southern Nevada while conference-leading Salt Lake Community College goes against fourth placed Utah State University – Eastern.

“Southern Nevada is one of our toughest opponents in the conference,” Shanden added regarding their semifinals competitors.

If Shanden and the rest of the Badgers are able to navigate through the semifinals and final of their conference playoffs, then they will be eligible to compete in the Region 18 tournament for a shot at the “Nationals” which will be a battle-royale between each region’s best team.

In elite company

Shanden Vergara’s current promise being shown in USA’s soccer system puts him in an exclusive circle of a few modern homegrown Filipino footballers who had the rare chance of being the country’s talent exports for the beautiful game joining the likes of Freddy Gonzalez, Marco Casambre and Amani Aguinaldo, all of whom made their respective marks with The Azkals.

However, despite this impression of joining an elite circle – behind the scenes – Shanden’s path has never been easy, requiring sacrifices and immense effort to further improve himself in a foreign and competitive environment (not to mention completing the academic requirements). But if he can maintain the course and thrive in his young and upward-trending career as a footballer, he certainly can fulfill his targets to reach the next level.

“I miss my family every single day, as well as my friends. I’ve also been playing in different positions which my coach wants me to play. I played as a forward, midfielder, winger or sometimes a defender for tactical reasons. Our coach has been rotating us in different positions as he wants us to be versatile players,” Shanden shares on some of the situations where he has been put out of his comfort zone.

“My natural role has always been in the midfield or behind the striker. But I don’t mind if I play different positions for as long as I can play, where I enjoy playing the ball with my feet.”

Staying focused, yet grounded

At this moment, Shanden Vergara’s upward trajectory is showing steadiness, and has already gone quite a progression from his humble roots in San Carlos, then to the UAAP and now in the NJCAA with Snow College.

But the lad’s already inspiring rise is just beginning at the other side of the world as he is still in the early phase of his varsity soccer career in the states. Yet, it’s reassuring to know that Shanden’s focus and resolve remains the same as he reaches for his goal of carving out a career in the pro-ranks.

“My goal after college is to become a professional footballer, as it always has been my dream since I was young,” Shanden states.

In the end, despite the immense promise that currently lies ahead on his football journey, the former Green Archer turned Badger still keeps a grounded attitude knowing his opportunities are not just limited to the sport given the education he is receiving – and need to take care of – as an athlete-scholar.

“If (a career in football does not work out as planned), I will look for another opportunity which is to find a good job for my future for whatever God gives me in my life.

“His plans will always be greater than mine.”

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Football for Humanity bridges infrastructure gap in PH football

In-line with FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s recent visit to Manila in support of the country’s football development, one of the main topics touched was infrastructure, something that Football for Humanity (FFH) Foundation has been staunchly pouring out efforts onto for at least the past three years.

In one report, the FIFA president mentioned that with their organisation’s help, having more infrastructures for the sport, and more competitions at varying levels, will benefit the Philippines’ overall improvement in football.

Such a statement from the most powerful man in world football only further validates the objectives of Football for Humanity in creating football infrastructures that the community can freely use particularly for the children in order to plant the seeds and eventually cultivate a footballing culture and develop the fundamental individual skills, in an organic setup, in playing the sport.

Football for Humanity co-founder and vice-president, Ms. Belle Tiongco, believes the visit of FIFA’s highest executive is a positive impact for Philippine football.

“It’s very inspiring, FIFA coming here. Just that… the visit of the (federation’s) officials is already very inspiring because that means that the interest in football (in the Philippines) is really growing.”

Meanwhile, founder and president Chris Thomas, also shared the same sentiment.

“I think the president of FIFA coming to the Philippines is a huge boost and an inspiration to football across the country. And with the statements that he made when it comes to the infrastructure, this is something which plays a key role in the development of football in the Philippines on a community level as well.”

5-a-side Football Pitches

One of Football for Humanity’s main thrusts in contributing to community development lies in the creation of football fields or pitches for small-sided variant of the beautiful game, particularly five-a-side.

At its very essence, the driver of such infrastructure development initiatives emanate from the belief that sport and play is a fundamental right for every child. The creation of such specific football pitch facilities enable play-based learning environments for children to have a shot at fulfilling their potentials in the sport.

“For now, we (lack) infrastructure. We’ve gone around the country for the past four or five years on our football advocacy and that’s one glaring (deficiency). That’s why when we formed our strategy, we were very clear: Football infrastructure should be promoted (and) built,” Belle Tiongco shared.

After being involved in six completed projects, three in Bicol and three in Mindanao, in partnership with local government units (LGU) FFH has been building simple, cost-effective concrete pitches for small-sided football. 

The facility being built do not feature touchlines, making children enjoy free-flowing, fast-paced games that cultivate individual skills that will help them set up the innate qualities that would serve as their foundation towards the next level of their development. Furthermore, it is considered the most popular format in England where millions of young people play on a weekly basis.

Another important aspect in the building of these facilities is that they are made exclusively for football and, to a certain extent, futsal as well deviating from the more applied norm of sharing facilities with other sports like basketball and volleyball courts as emphasised by Belle Tiongco.

“In our actual experience, (sharing spaces with other sports) because once kids get (more immersed) to football then there’s going to be that clash (with practitioners of other sports) in terms of who will play (in the facility).

“You don’t want one sport to suffer because you are promoting another.”

An affirmation

Going back to the statements made by FIFA President Gianni Infantino on the infrastructure development and the recent urging of Filipino worldwide boxing icon and senator Manny Pacquiao (whom President Infantino paid a visit to) on the need to focus on sports disciplines where Filipinos can excel and win, gives encouragement in terms of the direction that FFH’s initiatives are taking as Chris Thomas further intimated.

“I think the comments that were made by the president of FIFA, they just affirm what we’ve been doing since 2016 and what we are striving to do, not just from a community level, but on a national level as well.

“Especially with the likes of (Congresswoman) Pia Cayetano (whom President Infantino also met, being an advocate of women’s sports) and (Senator) Manny Pacquiao talking about legislation and policies – which are really important – they are part and parcel of the growth of the sport by having the right policies and legislations in place so that it opens the doors for government’s support whether through financial or infrastructure.

“Things look like they’re coming together in harmony with the PFF, FIFA, and the legislators, and with the current projects that are on the ground particularly with what we at FFH are doing, everything seems to be matching together.”

Other fronts

Football for Humanity Foundation may be currently focusing their immediate future efforts on infrastructure and community development initiatives, but they are also in the midst of other activities related to football.

At the moment, FFH, in partnership with Dubai World Expo 2020 and One World Play Project, are still in the midst of spreading awareness and hope through football in the country by distributing specially made balls that are virtually indestructible to far flung and conflict-torn areas.

Also, in-line is the Vision Beyond Borders project which is a coaching course to be provided by National Youth Association of Sweden and UEFA B licensed English FA tutor Owen Southgate which will begin early November in Vermosa Cavite. 

Vision Beyond Borders will be held in multiple locations around the country beginning in Luzon, followed by the Visayas, which will then conclude in Davao in Mindanao.

More than just football

Football for Humanity’s advocacy does not focus on the sport of football as an end to their means though. FFH aims to provide a holistic approach in community development through the “Play for Goals” program by partnering with other not-for-profit groups such as Library Renewal Partnership and Waves for Water which builds libraries and provides clean water facilities respectively.

FFH’s latest project in Davao actually has been the product of the collaboration with their aforementioned partners along with the help of the LGU and is the template that the foundation really is striving for in terms of helping the community. 

In picture: Football For Humanity’s founders Belle Tiongco (left) and Chris Thomas (right)

“Football for Humanity is not just about the infrastructure, and the promotion and development of the sport. It’s about social development and community empowerment by taking that holistic approach in a sustainable way.

“We’re also tackling pressing issues in society whether it be drugs, crimes gang recruitments even violent extremism. It’s another way for us to use football to prevent these type of things from happening… even health issues. 

“Football becomes that platform and tool to direct the community’s youth to a more successful future,” shared Chris Thomas. 

Follow and contact Football for Humanity Foundation to know more about their advocacies through their social media channels on Youtube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

PFL to expand Copa Alcantara as part of 5-point growth plan

During the draw for the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara that was held in the PFF House of Football last October 20, the Philippines Football League touched on its immediate plans for the growth of the country’s top-tier professional league tournament.

PFL Commissioner Coco Torre himself was the one who gave a high-level discussion on what the league’s plans are in front of key representatives of the Copa Paulino Alcantara participants comprising of the following: sponsorship, partnership with industry leaders, league expansion, referee development, and income generation and brand building.

Sponsorship

Recent reports have been published that Qatar Airways are set for a sponsorship role beginning with the 2019 Copa Alcantara until the upcoming 2020 PFL season.

Although some of the specifics of the momentous partnership are still in the process of being ironed out during the time of the draw, the development could pave way for future sponsorships that are being worked on by the PFL management Liga Futbol, Inc. (LFI).

Partnerships with overseas leagues

As PFL management continues in its efforts on multiple fronts in growing the competition as a whole, it aims to forge partnerships with industry leaders in the region.

One key development in this is PFL working with J.League – one of the trail-blazers in Asia – when it comes to club education and other technical matters on and off the pitch with the possibility of future collaborative efforts with other league football entities as well.

“We sought help and guidance from J.League (on this particular aspect),” Commissioner Torre shared.

It is to note that J.League has recently been in the Philippines for a separate advocacy where the league reached out to their chosen community in Quezon City where they held a football clinic and donated kits to the children.

League Expansion

During the recently concluded 2019 season the league was comprised of seven competing clubs in a hectic campaign which required clubs facing each other four times.

Commissioner Torre looked at the possibility of expanding the league, although it will be dependent on the number of clubs competing and the licensing requirements for new ones.

Another more possible approach is expanding the pool in the Copa Alcantara. The league commissioner shared that PFL along with Ang Liga’s Coach Aris Caslib are exploring on connecting the two leagues beginning with awarding top-performing Ang Liga teams slots to compete in the cup.

As of this moment, the avenue for expanding the competitors in the Copa Alcantara could be the more feasible route given that the competition serves as the national cup directly under PFF’s leadership, so not only will it be open to PFL and Ang Liga, as it actually is a national competition that could be opened up for champions of other non-professional leagues.

Referee development

Another aspect that the league is looking at is the continued improvement in the officiating through referee development.

Quality of in-game officiating has been a key thrust of the entire footballing sphere worldwide, at all levels, with the advent of VAR at the highest level of competitions as the most obvious testament to this.

Although, Philippine football is still far from having the resources to introduce VAR, improving the overall level of refereeing through trainings is at a high priority for the PFL.

Income generation and brand building

One of the most crucial in any organized sport is its sustainability and income generation plays a crucial role.

Methods that are currently being looked into are ticketing system and merchandise through the building up of the PFL brand and, to an extent, the Copa Paulino Alcantara.

Though not much has been divulged yet on the details and methodology of the approach with regards to the brand development, another thing that was emphasized as part of implementing a ticket system is the infrastructure readiness.

For now out of the three venues used in the recently concluded 2019 PFL, only Binan Football Stadium has the readiness to implement paid in-venue viewership. Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa still has to be assessed due to its currently open-nature in terms of accessing the venue, while Rizal Memorial Stadium is still in the process of completing its renovation for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Infrastructure has been one of the main focus right now as part of developing football in Philippines especially when the topic has been put in the spotlight during the visit of FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Metro Manila a few days ago.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League