As of February 5, former Ateneo de Manila standout footballer and U22 Philippine National Team player Javier “Jarvey” Gayoso opted not to use his remaining eligibility in the UAAP to play professional football in the domestic scene.
This development came from the player himself, via his social media channel, thanking the university he served as a forward in its varsity team in stellar fashion for 8 years in the UAAP football tournaments beginning in the high school levels.
But what is the more interesting part in the substantial post is his jump to the local professional ranks may serve to be just a stepping stone for an opportunity to play overseas.
“After my stint at this year’s South East Asian games, God blessed me with an opportunity to play professional football overseas. Thus, in preparation for this huge task, I have made the decision to join a local professional team.”
For the past years, when his actual rise to prominence in the local footballing circles began in full blast from his breakout season in the college level, the now 22-year old footballer immediately made a name by being the top scorer in the UAAP where his prolific outputs in front of goal were maintained almost his entire tenure in college football. Such a career span produced two championships, multiple top scoring awards and MVP honors.
As a national athlete, Gayoso has been part of the junior ranks of the national football team program with stints in the U19 and U22 levels with the recent 2019 Southeast Asian Games as one of the most high profile playing alongside Azkals mainstays Stephan Schröck, and Amani Aguinaldo, with promising peers based overseas such as Justin Baas, Anthony Pinthus and Yrick Gallantes in what could be considered as one of the best showings of the youth squad in years, despite coming short of qualifying to the semifinals due to goal difference.
The mentioned international tournament may have been a revelation for the college star’s massive potential in his capabilities as, although he has been mainly a striker and one of the main focal points in attack for his teams both in Ateneo and the Philippines, his role for his latest stint in the national squad has been very different by being utilized as a left-back with a license to operate up the wing.
As of this writing, it is yet to be officially confirmed which local team he is joining, but with the Philippines Football League already on the horizon in less than a month’s time, Jarvey Gayoso will finally be seen donning a kit and stepping onto the pitch as a professional.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fresh from winning the 2019 Philippines Football League trophy last October 19 without suffering a loss, Ceres-Negros might be gearing up for total domination of the domestic football with players hinting at an all-out campaign for the Copa Paulino Alcantara.
The initial celebrations of the club may just have ended as of this writing, which will be followed by a much deserved rest, relaxation and recovery after achieving a monumental feat in the history of Philippine professional football, but some of the key players are already starting to set their sights on the cup campaign and really challenge to win an unprecedented “double”.
Spanish striker, Bienvenido Maranon, who top-scored for The Busmen with 30 goals already provided his intent on winning the Copa Alcantara believing that that the club has the ability to take it all this 2019.
“We have to enjoy (winning this title) for one week then, it’s time to prepare for the cup… Ceres is not gonna play (just) to lose or to draw. We got to have to play to win everything because Ceres deserves to win everything.”
Meanwhile, Robert Lopez Mendy of Senegal returned to the PFL midseason with a bang, immediately finding his form for his new club will look to maintain his scoring touch to win the Copa Alcantara, a title in which he helped his former team Kaya FC Iloilo win last year through his late strike.
“It was an exciting season. After securing the league title we wanted to finish unbeaten and we were able to achieve it. It was a good experience.
“My individual target is always the same which is to score goals. That’s my job. But I think for the team, it’s the same objective which we have to do which is to go out there and win whatever we can win.”
Another newcomer to the club, one of the only two Azkals “centurions”, James Younghusband also personally looks forward to the next cup campaign after the team concludes its league championship celebrations when asked about going all-out.
“Sure, you always want to go all-out (to win the cup. But) it’s all up to the coach (Risto Vidakovic). He’s the mastermind and he’s the one who makes the great decisions… But now we’re just enjoying the celebrations the moment that we’ve won the league then we’ll have a short break and then (the team) will come together and focus on the cup.
“As for me personally I’m looking forward to (the Copa Paulino Alcantara) especially playing against the (Philippines) Under-22.”
Ceres-Negros might have the ingredients this 2019 to swoop for two trophies, a first-ever in Philippine professional football era if they pull it off successfully, given their squad depth.
But how the team competes in the tournament will depend overall on the main objectives and approach from Ceres Head Coach Risto Vidakovic if winning the cup will be a top priority given that his team are in for another grinding set campaigns as AFC Champions League qualification or AFC Cup are now in-line after their successful domestic league championship run.
A total of eight teams will vie for the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara which will have its draw on October 20. The first match-day is set on October 26.
League champions Ceres-Negros were able to attain what has not been done before in Philippine professional football as they conclude the 2019 domestic campaign without suffering a defeat.
The stellar achievement was confirmed when The Busmen scored three unanswered goals against league runners-up Kaya FC Iloilo with OJ Porteria, Bienvenido Maranon, and James Younghusband finding the back of the net in top two clubs’ final face-off in the league season that was held in Aboitiz Pitch Lipa last October 19.
The match was built up to be champions Ceres-Negros final hurdle towards an undefeated season, while runners-up Kaya are being billed as the last team with the chance to tarnish the three-time champions’ campaign by inflicting their only defeat.
The first half unfolded with both clubs presented with some promising chances, but 45 minutes have passed with both sides heading to their respective dugouts empty-handed with a goalless stalemate.
However, come the second half, Ceres-Negros were able to turn-up the proceedings a notch higher. Eventually The Busmen were rewarded as OJ Porteria broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute with a header off captain Stephan Schrock’s assist.
A sort of late collapse by Kaya unfolded late in the match as Bienvenido Maranon doubled Ceres’ lead in the 90th minute followed by a third by substitute James Younghusband as the memorable evening and the floodlights smiled in favor of the Bacolod-based side achieving an undefeated season.
The almost year-long domestic front does not end though with the league championship as Ceres Head Coach Risto Vidakovic’s men have another chance to further achieve an unprecedented milestone if they can win the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara which will begin soon.
Ceres Negros have just clinched their third straight Philippines Football League (PFL) title after getting a 3-1 win against Green Archers United last October 12, further stamping their dominance in the country’s top flight.
WILL CERES CONCLUDE THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGN AS INVINCIBLES?
The champions-elect no doubt had, for the third straight time, been in ruthless form as they set their hands on the league trophy without suffering a loss.
However, with the reward already in the bag and still a few matches left, can the Busmen sustain the momentum in avoiding a defeat and achieve the unprecedented invincible tag?
It seems very possible feat to achieve given the quality of the Bacolod-based club, but it will depend on Coach Risto Vidakovic’s approach and his wards’ hunger to reach an even greater milestone in this already successful season if they will continue stepping on the gas pedal until the last whistle of their final match.
And, if ever Ceres-Negros do fail to get a point in any of their remaining fixtures, which team (or teams) between Global, Mendiola or Kaya will earn the distinction of defeating the three-time champions this season?
Now, that is something to set one’s sights.
WHO WILL END UP AS LEAGUE TOP SCORER?
As of the moment, Kaya FC Iloilo target-man Jordan Mintah is in the driver’s seat the league’s best scorer for the season with 32 goals, but not far behind is Ceres-Negros hotshot Bienvenido Maranon with 27 conversions.
Both forwards are in rich vein of form respectively, converting chances presented to them into precious goals almost at will. Maranon though will relish the possibility of getting the individual achievement on top of the team trophy to further stamp Ceres’ stellar campaign while Jordan will definitely try to finish strong after his team missed out once again in stealing the title out of Ceres’ grasps.
A battle for individual honors that shouldn’t be missed is definitely being realized and whatever the outcome, this duel between tried and tested forwards from two of the best clubs in the country in recent times will go down as a memorable one.
WHICH LOCAL PLAYER WILL END UP SCORING THE MOST GOALS?
As of the moment, a three-way battle between Mendiola’s Jim Ashley Flores (9 goals) and Stallion teammates, Jesus Melliza (11 goals) and Fitch Arboleda (9 goals) is happening as they vie for who is going to end up as the best scoring local player.
Stallion may have less matches left in the campaign though compared to Mendiola, but in the end, it all boils down on who can maintain their scoring touch in front of goal.
The feat may prove crucial if taken into a much bigger context, as it may play a role when it comes to future national team call-ups, if any of these players are being shortlisted to be part of in the near future.
The Philippine Azkals have three more fixtures for the remainder of 2019 with the World Cup qualifier match against China happening in a fortnight, and with the Philippines Football League (PFL) 2019 season in its end-phase, a few local players emerged as standouts that could merit a consideration to be in Azkals Head Coach Goran Milojevic’s near future squad.
In the Azkals that recently competed against Syria and Guam for the qualifiers, only OJ Porteria, Mike Ott and Sean Kane (all of Ceres-Negros) represented the domestic pro league. Meanwhile, homegrown PFL player Jovin Bedic of Kaya who probably may have also featured in the squad, suffered an injury which made him unavailable that time.
However, with the domestic season already poised for its conclusion and the performances of players for their respective clubs already becoming clear in terms of how they fared, here is a list of three proven in-form local PFL players who deserve to have at least a shot in being part of the national team before 2019 ends (in no particular order).
Nathan Alquiros (Stallion Laguna, Midfielder)
One of Stallion Laguna’s main offensive orchestrators from the middle of the park has been an engine for his squad this PFL 2019 season which is currently at solo third in the standings.
Being the one who usually pull the strings for Coach Ernest Nierras’ Biñan-based squad either in the center or right midfield, with an occasional license to advance and strike forward, the product of De La Salle University’s football program has been a model of industry for his club.
Nathan Alquiros’ vision, ball-control and ability to read the play and unleash a shot in promising situations make him one of the standout creative midfielders in the league, not to mention his willingness to put in the hard work on the defensive end – something that the Azkals coaching staff might need to have a second look to further add a dash of uncompromising industry to the midfield.
Definitely one of the most consistent performers for Stallion Laguna this season, Fitch Arboleda has been on a tear for his club either as a scorer or a creator.
The pacy winger has been one of the main focal points of Stallion’s attack and his current output of nine goals, which is tied at fourth, is a testament of how Fitch has become an indispensable part of the club for all these three years in the PFL, not to mention his proven ability to also provide an assist to a much better-positioned strike partner.
However, the Azkals’ wealth in the winger and forward roles may prove a tough challenge for the former University of the East standout in making the squad. But if the Azkals are somehow presented a void on the flanks, Fitch Arboleda definitely is an option that should not be ignored.
Jim Ashley Flores (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Striker)
Arguably the most deserving of a call-up at the moment, Ashley Flores has been one of the few, yet most significant, positives for an otherwise tough debut season for FC Mendiola 1991 in the PFL.
The former San Beda University product’s current total of nine goals makes him tied in the goal-scorers’ standings at fourth, but what makes his achievement all the more notable is he was able to score against all other opposing PFL clubs, including powerhouses Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC.
A proven scorer deployed either as a main or support striker, whether it’s from a spectacular individual effort or a bundled goal produced from pure graft, Ashley Flores’ qualities and current form definitely merit a chance for an inclusion to the Azkals in at last one of its future qualifier matches.
Alen Angeles (Mendiola FC 1991, Forward/Winger)
Jesus Melliza (Stallion Laguna, Forward/Midfielder)
Paolo Bugas (Green Archers United, Midfielder)
Marwin Angeles (Kaya FC Iloilo, Midfielder)
Joshua Dutosme (Ceres-Negros, Defender/Wingback)
YOUR OPINION COUNTS TOO!
Do you agree in this list? Which PFL player at the moment do you think deserves a call-up to the national team? Post them on the comments section below or on our social media channels on Facebook.
Just as the season in Philippine professional football has reached its midseason with the league seemingly just going through the motions a much welcome development happened with the inclusion of a facility in Lipa, Batangas that could save the league from a viewership perspective.
More known as the Aboitiz Pitch located within the Lima Estate in Batangas right on the edge of Lipa, the venue (which serves as the home ground of Green Archers United), with its current features as a playing surface and potential as a major hub for top-level tournaments, may just have shown what it takes to invigorate the remaining fixtures of the 2019 Philippines Football League [PFL] season.
It’s time to delve a bit more as to why this artificial pitch facility located at a considerable distance south of Metro Manila is such a saving grace for a league that could have headed towards an even greater disappointment in terms of fan experience.
BEFORE: A SAD SITUATION
PFL’s 2019 season hastily got its green-light after the demise of what could have been a season under a new league management (with a different branding). With several factors at stake, most especially when it comes to the Philippine clubs’ eligibility to participate in the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) international club tournaments (namely, AFC Cup and AFC Champions League) for the country’s top two performing teams (held by Kaya FC Iloilo and Ceres-Negros for the 2019 season), the league pushed through with the status quo when it comes to the top-tier professional club league affairs.
However, for 2019 it wasn’t really the same compared to 2018. The league opted to scrap the traditional “home and away” format particularly the inter-island travels in consideration of the the participating clubs which shouldered exorbitant costs for transportation and lodging for away matches the past season. But this decision, in effect, removed Ceres-Negros’ Panaad Stadium and Kaya FC’s Iloilo Sports Complex out of the equation when it comes to the venues, leaving the league with two stadiums that can host matches: Rizal Stadium and Stallion Laguna’s Binan Football Stadium.
The problem is Rizal Stadium eventually was closed for renovation as it has been tapped as a venue for the upcoming 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) football.
As a mitigating approach, the PFF artificial training pitch in Carmona, Cavite was tapped as another venue. Now lies the problem, that particular facility is not suitable to regularly host top-tier football matches as it is what it is: a training facility. It maybe a decent playing surface but it is far from appealing as a match venue for fans.
It maybe understandable if two to three matches were held there due to extreme reasons such as that suitable venues were unavailable. But no, the PFF Training Center has been for quite a considerable space in time been the ‘de facto’ main venue of the league. The effect via livestream was disheartening.
In one particular match between Ceres and Kaya last July 10, in what should be the biggest high-quality match of the season between the only two of the nation’s AFC Cup participants for 2019 – both boasting national team players and players with European football experience – and one can see in every corner, missed attempt or throw-in scenario, cows grazing a few feet away. This writer can categorically say that that was one of the lowest points of the league’s current season.
On July 23, the PFL had an inspection in the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa as a possible additional venue to be primarily used as the home grounds of league debutants Green Archers United.
Eventually the nod by the league’s management has been secured and soon enough, Aboitiz Pitch hosted for the first time on August 3 as a neutral turf for a double-header that featured Mendiola against Global and a redemption headliner for the second meeting between defending league champion Ceres and cup ace Kaya.
For the first time, in quite a while, an evening kick-off was witnessed. Although, the proceedings have been dampened by the excessive downpour brought about by the monsoon exacerbated by a typhoon system north of the country. The new ground proved its worth, showing its features as a capable “all-weather” playing surface with an impromptu stress test. Despite the rains and howling winds, that affected the livestream coverage and even the technical overall quality of the match, the game was able to push through due to its surprisingly adequate drainage system that despite some puddle buildup, was still playable enough not to suffer major match delays.
The following weekend, on August 10 and 11, with much more favorable conditions, fans both in the stands and watching via livestream were able to enjoy the matches more.
LIPA PITCH: NOT PERFECT, BUT [MUCH] BETTER
The new venue option in Lipa may have provided a much needed revitalisation for the league in terms of the viewership experience for fans both in-person and on-line but it still has quite some improvements to undergo.
First is the spectator area, the bleachers aren’t covered forcing the fans to retreat to the roofed area during the August 3 and 4 matchdays, which does not have seats (facility management provided monobloc chairs as a stopgap but they were limited in numbers) and is far from the pitch drastically lessening match experience.
Second, the toilet facilities for spectators were not easily accessible (one has to go around the venue or pass over or under the tape barriers) and had drainage issues for the men’s room (the monsoon could have contributed) using instead the staff’s toilet or go further to the retail/mall restrooms.
Third, it’s just damn far (for Metro Manila fans). But this fact has a major upside: It opens up the sport to possible new fans within the vicinity. The playing ground is situated within an industrial zone. Beside the pitch is an outlets mall with shopping and dining facilities. Also nearby is a residential area. The setup is almost perfect in applying the principle of bringing the sport to the places outside the distractions of Metro Manila.
Despite these shortcomings, it is to note that the Aboitiz Pitch is not yet 100 percent complete especially when it comes to what it can offer to in-venue viewers. At least two food shops are planned to be setup behind the spectators’ area which once completed, would drastically improve the overall experience for fans.
This football facility in Lipa is a very welcome addition to the current Binan Football Stadium – which is not yet capable of hosting evening matches, and surely much better than the spartan and “not media friendly” PFF Training Pitch.
HOW ABOUT PFF CARMONA?
This doesn’t mean to fully eliminate the training center in Carmona being featured in the PFL, but it should be used for extreme cases only – as a last resort for last-minute, unforeseen venue constraints. The considerable number of matchdays in the past weeks should be enough already.
PFF Center doesn’t have the appeal, all the more, the atmosphere to host a football match that is considered as “professional” and “top-flight”.
To paraphrase one player who shared his resoundingly positive impression after playing in Lipa last August 3:
“This [Aboitiz Pitch] is very good! It has lights, fans are here [despite lower turnout due to the weather]. It encourages us to feel better and play better.
“It looks more professional – the way it should be.
“How can we be encouraged in [Carmona] if there are no fans watching, even worse, there are cows?!”
The Carmona facility should stay as it is meant to be: a training pitch. It should be a haven for clubs and squads to improve themselves and play outside the prying eyes of media and the possible accompanying distractions from fans. Case in point: The Azkals’ closed-door match against Mongolia last year as part of the preparation for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
A SMALL POSITIVE
In closing, the coming of Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa to the PFL is just a small positive, but an urgently needed one.
There are still challenges in Philippine pro football that need to be addressed such as spreading the league to the provinces in a cost-effective manner, and using other traditional media channels to reach more people (particularly in Bacolod and Iloilo which are represented in the league) to name a few.
It is good that a new facility came into the Philippine professional football landscape. Here’s to hoping it won’t end there. Last June 6, the PFL management also did an inspection of a stadium in Imus, Cavite, which may or may not have passed the requirements as it has yet to host a match. Whatever, the case maybe, the need to increase match-worthy venues is imperative as it is a reflection of the league itself.