The AIA Philam 7’s Football League is set the green light for its biggest and most ambitious Season 5 which kicks off simultaneously in different parts of the nation on February 9.
During the presser held in the afternoon of February 6 in Makati, a total of 80 teams are vying for top honors in different competitions with 24 teams for the men’s, 10 for women’s, and 48 youth squads.
What started as a small league with only eight teams to reaching its currently much larger pool of competitors, it seems that the league is in the right direction in achieving one of its biggest motivations as to why it has come to existence in the first place.
“I saw a huge gap in the football market in the Philippines and it has been my personal advocacy to bridge this and make the sport inclusive so more people will appreciate it. Hopefully, what I’m doing sets up a good foundation in the country,” shared 7’s Football League founder and former Azkals Anton del Rosario.
That gap is slowly being addressed through the efforts of the 7’s Football League as it now has presence in different locations across the nation giving local clubs in the locality far from Metro Manila a chance to compete in an organized 7-a-side tournament.
Along with the league’s partnership with AIA Philam Life that began last year, 7’s Football League was able to further consolidate its previous expansion plans such as last season that saw it’s biggest competition pool yet with 66 teams, the women’s division, and even introducing new special tournaments such as the Philam Vitality Kampeon 7’s Cup, the All-Star tourney, and AIA global ambassador, football legend, David Beckham’s appearance and participation at the 7’s Football Youth Clinic.
“Football should be an all-inclusive sport and we’re happy that the league we’ve been supporting since last year has opened its arms wider to welcome more people to play the sport,” said Kelvin Ang, AIA Philam Life Chief Executive Officer.
Probably the most promising tournament that 7’s Football League is offering is the Youth Divisions which provides an opportunity for future talents to be developed in the competitive aspect of football which could help in identifying talents that would benefit Philippine football in the future.
7’S Football League Season 5 kicks off simultaneously in McKinley Stadium, Muntinlupa, Clark, Bacolod, and Davao on February 9, while Iloilo commence its season on February 15.
Loyola Football Club, particularly its Youth Academy, continues to push forth with their progression in the competitive front as it sets to join in the Philam 7s Football League Youth.
Focused mainly in the 9-a-side and 11-a-side competitions, the youth teams of Loyola FC Youth Academy are currently preparing for the rigors and demands of the 7-a-side format as evidenced by an early evening training session before the presser that was held in Libis last October 11, 2019.
Coach Roxy Dorlas, former national team player with 10 caps and who is currently spearheading the club’s youth programs, has been overseeing the required fine tunings that his participating teams need ahead of their return to competing in the format of the league that former Azkals Anton Del Rosario founded.
“[The style of play is going to be] a lot quicker, there’s going to be as lot of [off-the-ball] movement, we should move the ball a lot quicker [and exhibit] quicker decision-making.”
Loyola’s participation in the 7’s Football League Youth will be on multiple fronts as they will field four teams in different categories, U9, U11, U13, and U15. Each division will have eight participating clubs or teams with the whole campaign set to unfold in five Sundays beginning on October 13, 2019.
All matches in the 7’s Football League Youth will be held in McKinley Hill Stadium.
Loyola FC Youth are also approaching the final leg of their on-going Provincial Tour, currently one of the biggest initiatives they pulled off, this 2019. With stops at Los Banos, Laguna and Lingayen, Pangasinan already completed within the past two-months, Loyola is now gearing up for its next location, Baguio.
Coach Roxy Dorlas has been leading the charge in this project with the mission of helping spread grassroots youth football in the country, focusing in Luzon.
“We really try to help out the provincial teams for them to get more exposure at the competitive level. We know there is a lot of talent in the Philippines (particularly) in the provinces, but they don’t have the luxury (of footballing resources) like we have here in Manila (such as the number of) games… Through Loyola FC, we try to help them get these competitive games”, Coach Roxy shared.
The Baguio leg of the tour, as in the other previous destinations, will comprise of three main activities: football friendly matches with the local clubs, and a series of training sessions with the possibility of trials for aspiring young footballers for talent identification and possibly the chance in joining the club’s youth ranks.
Another thing that caught Coach Roxy Dorlas and the rest of Loyola’s attention with regards to the the players in the provinces is the passion and commitment to playing the sport.
“I think the passion (is greater when it comes to players from the provinces) compared to the ones here in Manila. I know that here in Manila, once players get to a certain level, they want to focus already in their studies. But in the provinces, you can tell that if the opportunity is there for them to really represent the country, they’ll really continue and try to get to the highest level,” added the mentor who also coaches the Philippine U16 team.
The two-day Baguio leg is set to unfold from November 30 to December 1, 2019 with plans for more destinations come 2020.
WHEN WILL LOYOLA’S SENIOR SQUAD RETURN TO COMPETING?
Finally, the big question that has been hanging for quite some time from both club faithfuls and general Philippine football fans has been asked: When will Loyola be seen back to competing even in the 7s at the earliest?
Although, non-committal, Coach Roxy provided an air of optimism that it may eventually happen soon enough but not in the immediate future.
“As soon as we can form a team, I would definitely entertain (competing in the senior 7’s Football League).
“(But) I think for now, it’s very challenging… because or high school players who are in the U17s and U19s are starting to focus already with their respective school teams.
“Hopefully (we can field a senior squad) by next year. But I think our (more realistic) target is within the next two years.”
Weeks after the conclusion 7s Football League – Manila’s third season, a new competition under the same league is about to unfold with the first-ever KAMPEON 7s Cup slated this coming July 27 and 28 at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig City.
Formally known as Philam Vitality KAMPEON 7s Cup, the two-day event will feature all-star line-ups from each of the four 7s Football Leagues around the country, giving fans an opportunity to see the best players from each region, with multiple age bracket youth competitions also to be featured.
“We are based in four different areas right now (Manila, Bacolod, Cebu and Davao). These are four key cities in the country and being able to establish 7s Football as the main football league in these cities will be huge,” said 7s Football founder and Manila Commissioner Anton Del Rosario.
“And when it comes to that, we want to claim who the best city is in the country. The Kampeon 7s Cup will have all-star selection teams from each of the leagues created from each province to see who’s the best in the country.”
The Manila competition recently finished with Ghana F.C. dethroning the Super Eagles in the men’s final, while Outkast F.C. dethroned Stallion-Hiraya in the inaugural women’s cup.
The 7s Football League – Bacolod leg also finished last May, with Villa Angela F.C. emerging as the champions after beating Atletico de Bago F.C. with a 3-1 result.
Finals Most Valuable Players Florence Panongaling, Michael Benedicto and Bon Jovi Amaguiton led Villa Angela throughout the season.
The Davao and Cebu tournaments will be kicking off this June.
Aside from Del Rosario, Azkals players Stephan Schrock (Bacolod) and Misagh Bahadoran (Cebu) have been tapped as league heads to further strengthen the reach and influence of the 7s Football League in each city.
Moving forward, Del Rosario hopes to expand 7s Football by putting up more independent tournaments across the archipelago.
“With the expansion, I already requested a group in Laguna and a group up north in Quezon City to set up 7s Football Leagues over there,” said Del Rosario.
“Hopefully, soon enough, we will be able to have eight to 10 provinces and cities where we would be able to create selection teams competing for the title.”
The Philam Life 7s Football League successfully completed its 3rd season last Sunday, May 12, 2019, at the McKinley Hill Stadium with Ghana FC and Outkast FC emerging as champions in the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.
Ghana displayed a solid performance on their final assignment to come out as 3-1 winners and put an end to the Super Eagles’ domination in the men’s division for the past two seasons.
Emmanuel Mbata and Daniel Ashley’s goals in the first half added by a third courtesy of Junior Sam proved to be enough for Ghana to show their superiority as the dethroned defending champions can only muster a goal through Emmanuel Sylvernus.
Meanwhile, Outkast FC completed a comeback to win 2-1 in the inaugural women’s division over Stallion-Hiraya FC.
Women’s National Team head coach Let Dimzon and Loreta Ladero scored for Outkast in either half to cancel out Hiraya’s opener via Aiza Mondero.
In between the men’s and women’s championship matches, Team World dominated Team Philippines in the 7s All-Star match with a 5-0 scoreline.
Simultaneously that day, championships in the youth divisions were also held where Sugod (U5), Sugod A (U7) and Bohemian SC (U9) were determined as champions.
The league’s strengths: Youth and Women
Though it is a fact that the men’s senior division is the league’s current main elite-level showcase for fans to witness in a seven-a-side format, the tournament’s promise and strength lie mostly in the women’s and youth/grassroots divisions.
Former Azkals defender and 7s Football League founder Anton del Rosario’s visionary tournament, slowly but surely, is delivering in its aim to provide a platform for, and develop players and talents for a much higher level of football, not just in Metro Manila but also, nationwide with its previously concluded Bacolod and Davao editions.
The introduction of the women’s tournament this season could reinforce the development of women’s football in general, as it could pave the way for elite and promising talents to further their skills in a competitive setting in addition to the limited scope and durations of the PFF Women’s Football League and the collegiate tournaments that could benefit the women’s national teams from the juniors to the senior squads.
From a grassroots/youth level, young athletes are introduced to organized football, developing their abilities through participation in a competitive setup without the unnecessary intricacies and complications of an 11-a-side format – a situation conducive for young footballers in their early development which can also be an avenue for finding talents for Philippines’ junior national teams.
Possibilities that could help propel PH football
Though most of the focus of the 7s Football League still lies in Metro Manila, the fact that it already ignited the Visayas (Bacolod) and Mindanao (Davao) legs, such branching off of the tournament could pave way for a national championship in the near future where respective champions of each region can face up in a “winners’ league” to determine a “grand champion”.
But like any other new leagues, having such an inter-connected and nationwide scope as a tournament is not yet realistic, but more of a possibility, at this point in time as challenges that need to be conquered still lie ahead. Some of which are connecting to the masses and creating a solid fanbase, which would also require the efforts of the participating clubs, given the fact that football is still very much a niche sport in the country.
Despite such, the 7s Football League’s positive aspect in the way that its progress is unfolding and, at the same time, helping the growth of the sport in the country far outweighs such concerns for now.
On a bigger scheme of things, including the men’s division, one of its major contributions worthy of mentioning is providing startup clubs a means to participate in a competitive and organized (not to mention televised) environment that would aid their progress, as well as be a more active participant in the larger football community in the country. Excellent examples of this are the participation of Tondo FC, a revived Bohemian SC, and Payatas FC where they could duke it out and test their mettle against 7s teams of more established clubs such as Ceres, Stallion, and Kaya.
Whether this state of the competition as a whole has been part of the 7s Football League’s plans from its inception, the fact that its current growth is opening up avenues that could help Philippine Football from a developmental viewpoint is something that really makes this league already commendable in just its three seasons of existence.
Its impact and still to be discovered potential, whether the organization is already aware of it or not, has already been starting in its contribution to the local football scene from the grassroots all the way to the elite and (even up to) the professional level.
Now these are what makes the 7s Football League Season 3 deserving of such sincere congratulations.
Exhibiting its steady rise from the time it launched in early 2018, 7’s Football League secures a new league sponsorship with insurance firm Philam Life for the upcoming third season that begins on February 3, 2019.
7’s Football League, a semi-professional 7-a-side tournament, is a startup founded by former Philippine Azkals Anton Del Rosario. Although it is still a very young league, it has exhibited exponential growth heading into its third season.
And now with a title sponsorship with AIA [American International Assurance] Group company Philam Life confirmed, it has shown that 7’s Football League could thrive while contributing to the growth of football, which, is still an emerging sport in the country as compared to mainstream staples such as basketball, women’s volleyball and boxing.
“I would like to welcome Philam Life to this partnership with the 7’s Football League. Thank you for coming on board, for trusting the league and helping football grow in the Philippines,” said founder Anton Del Rosario during the press conference for the launch of the third season last January 24, 2019 that was held in Taguig.
The new sponsorship deal puts Philam Life as the main league sponsor with the tournament now branded as Philam Life 7’s Football League. Along with the insurance giant, other sponsoring companies, in various capacities, are Delimondo, SkullCandy, Jollibee, Bootcamp, and Belle & Dragon.
Aside from the sponsorship aspect, what’s also important to note in-line with the tournament’s growth is the additional teams that will compete this coming third season.
Below are the 12 teams that will compete in the Philam Life 7’s Football League season:
*Bohemian SC, Superbad FC and H & J All Stars are the new teams set to compete for the new season.
The league format will begin with 12 teams playing a single round robin in the elimination phase. The top eight teams will then proceed to the playoffs which will be a knockout. The playoffs are expected to begin sometime in April.
The Philam Life 7’s Football League kicks off on February 3, 2019 and will run until May 19. The tournament will be held every Sunday at McKinley Hill Stadium from 6:00PM to 9:00PM.
Newly revived Filipino football club, Bohemian SC, has shown its serious intent to win the championship in its first foray into the 7’s Football League with three key preseason acquisitions.
Confirmed new players are forwards Izo Elhabib, Hamed Hajimehdi, and midfielder Daniel Matsunaga – three players who are expected to provide much needed experience and firepower.
As of this writing, Bohemian SC is also in the process of signing Ghanaian defender Valentine “Val” Kama [who had stints with Global, Ceres, and Ilocos United], according to club chairman Jason De Jong, pending confirmation via the club’s official media channels.
Sudanese Izo Elhabib made a name in the UFL during his fruitful stint with Kaya FC as a striker by being the league’s top-scorer in 2010, before moving to Global and eventually Laos FC where he continued to stamp his reputation as one of the more prolific forwards in the Philippine club football scene with his predatory instincts inside the box.
Hamed Hajimehdi, who hailed from Iran, had stints with Pasargad, Stallion and Laos. He also is a capable goalscorer and a specialist in set-pieces and penalty kicks. He has been a part of Bohemian Sporting Club academy’s coaching staff before agreeing on a one-year term to play for the 7’s Football League squad.
Daniel Matsunaga meanwhile, who is more recognized in Philippine mainstream media as a model and an actor, is actually a competent midfielder who had tenures with UFL clubs such as Team Socceroo, Pachanga Diliman and Kaya FC.
Such preseason moves show that the revival club of the once mighty Bohemian of the 1910’s is intent in going far and challenging in the upcoming third season of the league founded by former Azkals defender, Anton Del Rosario.
“I think it’s clear that we [as an organization] want to win the 7’s Football League,” according to club chairman Jason De Jong in an online interview.
It is to note that the first two seasons of the 7’s have been won by the Super Eagles.
Despite, the high aim of Bohemian in the amateur league, the club is keeping its feet planted well on the ground when it comes to developing the senior squad, clarifying the mission in fielding a first team in the year 2020.
“The target never was to be a [professional] club in 2020. To make this clear to everyone, the target is to revive the first team of the Bohemian Sporting Club in 2020,” added the former Azkal turned club executive.
“We will achieve that this year already by fielding a team in the Weekend Futbol League. The WFL is an amateur league and that is where we will start. We are looking to build a stable club that is able to survive on its own. We will slowly build the club back up.
“When you start a club, we believe you start in the lowest division in whatever country you are from and slowly move up the ranks. We have multiple examples in the Philippines with clubs coming in splashing ridiculous money around and, in the end, are not able to sustain [the costs]. If that means we have to play in the WFL for the next 5 seasons [to build up our sustainability for the professional level, then] that is fine.
“In the long run, we are looking to become a [professional] club – but in the right time. We are not in a rush,” concluded the chairman.
Before being fully revived as a footballing entity in 2018, Bohemian SC was considered as the most dominant force in the earliest phase of the Philippines’ footballing landscape in the 1910’s before reaching dormancy in the 1930’s, which if only was sustained, could have made the club one of the most storied in Asia [and maybe the world – given the year of its foundation and early winning tradition] when it comes to the sport.
But socio-political shifts in the Philippines as a colony, then as an independent nation, followed by the breakout and aftermath of the second World War, severely stunted the development of football within the archipelago that also affected the club’s initial existence.