LaLiga kicks off biggest season yet in its 90th year

Spain’s top-flight football club competition, LaLiga, has begun to turn the wheels for 2019/2020 season which is being considered to be its grandest yet in celebration of its 90-years of existence as one of the best domestic leagues in the footballing world.

In a kick-off event for the Philippine media held last September 2, 2019 in Makati, the league represented by Almudena Gomez Benito (Global Network Delegate for the Philippines) and Ivan Codina (Managing Director for Southeast Asia – Australia, Japan and South Korea), LaLiga presented what football fans are about to expect in its biggest season yet in terms of technical scope.

IT’S IN THE DETAILS

Already providing one of the most cutting-edge fan experiences in professional club football (who can forget those cool 360 degree replays?), LaLiga continues to raise the bar for the recently started 2019/2020 season as it further implements improvements in broadcasting technology from the number of cameras (including super slow-motion viewing angles) up to the auditory experience with the introduction of Dolby Atmos and 4K video quality broadcast in select matches.

The league, considered by many as arguably the strongest in relation to historical performances of its representatives in international club competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and FIFA Club World Cup, featuring the most successful clubs ever to grace the sport with the likes of Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, and Sevilla FC to name a few is set to give a treat this season to football followers as it starts to usher in its most ambitious year yet in terms of viewer experience.

A NEW “HEART OF LALIGA”

A new element that gets added in the 2019/2020 season is the new ball that fans will see in matches in a new deal Puma Football as the new match ball supplier.

The development is significant as LaLiga has been supplied by a different brand for the past several years, making the switch both exciting and bold as it provides a new flavor on the pitch ushering something fresh to loyal fans through the years.

AN EXCITING SEASON UNFOLDING

Despite the new season just being in its third match day, based on what transpired in all of the fixtures involved, the race to the top could turn out to be an interesting one.

Bannered by its young gem and new signing Joao Felix, head coach Diego Simeone and the rest of Atletico de Madrid find themselves in first place of the standings followed by a seemingly rejuvenated Athletic Bilbao and an always threatening Sevilla FC.

With Real Madrid at fifth and Barcelona in an unfamiliar eighth place due to upsets and unexpected draws, the chase is on for the big clubs as they try to regain their respective footings with the possibility of more surprise results in store.

2019-20 season is definitely poised to be an interesting marathon as who will find themselves at the summit come the its conclusion.

ALPHONSE AREOLA RETURNS TO LALIGA

France’s emerging star goalkeeper, who is of Filipino origin from both parents, just joined Real Madrid for a season-long loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

With his Filipino heritage, such a move back to Spain by the former Villarreal shot-stopper in the club with probably the biggest profile and history, could further boost LaLiga in the eyes of Filipino sports fans.

The optimism in this loan-move, as one of the best footballing talents in the world who traces his roots to the Philippines, could definitely add interest to the Southeast Asian nation.

SEGUNDA DIVISION IN YOUTUBE

Meanwhile, Spain’s second-tier, the Segunda Division, formally named as LaLiga SmartBank, will be available for live streaming in Youtube in selected countries.

What is good about this move and partnership by the league with Youtube is the Philippines is one of the countries that have free access to these matches and content.

Featuring storied clubs such as Deportivo La Coruna, Racing Santander, Malaga, and Real Zaragoza, along with other clubs that make up a productive conveyor belt of the biggest talents in football access to this quality league is a boon for Filipino football fans who have teams to root for in the second division.

BEST SEASON EVER?

Considering the very promising 2019/2020 LaLiga Santander season as the best ever, is quite premature at this moment from a sporting level, but with the improvements in terms of the technical aspects in presentation, and the accessibility of LaLiga SmartBank for Filipino football fans – not to mention Alphonse Areola’s on-boarding with Real Madrid, it can be said that this young season is already the best in these criteria.

It’s definitely a great way to celebrate 90-years of amazing football, which all began back in 1929.

Now it’s time to calendar those crucial matchdays and enjoy the as Spain’s best clubs fight for the title!

Key LaLiga matches for the remainder of 2019

  • September 9 – Madrid Derby (Atletico de Madrid vs Real Madrid)
  • October 20 – South Madrid Derby (Getafe CF vs CD Leganes)
  • October 27 – El Clasico (Barcelona vs Real Madrid)
  • November 10 – Seville Derby (Real Betis vs Sevilla FC)
  • December 8 – Valencia Derby (Levante UD vs Valencia CF)

LaLiga Santander is available in the Philippines through BeIn Sports App or via BeIn channels in cable or satellite TV services that include the channel/s via subscription. LaLiga SmartBank matches can be viewed live via Youtube’s streaming services.

Photo credit: LaLiga Facebook Page

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5 minutes of added time with Ceres head coach Risto Vidaković

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

LaLiga club C.D. Leganés on a mission in Filipino town of… Leganes!

They maybe on the opposite sides of the world, but LaLiga’s Club Deportivo Leganés, located at the heart of Spain, travelled halfway around the globe with a purpose to the Southeast Asian namesake of the city they represent – Leganes, Iloilo, Philippines.

Fondly known in the footballing world as Los Pepineros (The Cucumbers), C.D. Leganés sent their defender Rodrigo “Rodri” Tarín as their emissary to the Far East with a specific set of tasks: See the municipality of Leganes in Iloilo, interact with the people, spread awareness about the club, and (most importantly) gain new fans and establish a connection through the name that the two places share: Leganes.

Upon arrival after an epic 16-hour flight, Rodri wasted no time as he quickly got amongst it with the locals within the commercial complex. Soon enough, a potential target came into view, a man wearing a Real Madrid jersey as Rodri quickly turned to an evangelist convincing the chap to support the Pepineros of Leganés as every true child of Leganes should!

A little later, more people heard of the gospel being preached by Rodri who seemed to be having a great time doing the honorable deeds for his club as another bloke, this time, in a Barcelona kit seemed to have been won by Rodri, accepting the Leganés scarf as a show of his newfound support.

Eventually, Rodri was able to reach the hotspot of the city – the epicenter of this outreach – where the best prospects for new Lega fans are situated, a local football pitch where kids of Gawad Kalinga communities play football and are open to supporting a LaLiga club that they could call their own.

True enough, the moment Rodri spent playing football with the local youth proved to be the most productive as not only did the kids spent a friendly match and learned bits of advise from a LaLiga player, but they were also introduced and made aware of the Pepineros, an exciting club from across the globe that plays in Spain’s top-flight, which share the same name as their hometown.

After all’s been said and done, Rodri’s mission seemed to be a successful and fruitful one as he was able to gather new Pepineros in a new football frontier, even including the City Mayor Jun Jun Jaen, and even reaching nearby Iloilo City where domestic cup (Copa Paulino Alcantara) champions Kaya FC Iloilo are based to come up with a pact of alliance as representatives of the Filipino club joined the Leganes defender in declaring the battlecry, Aúpa Lega!

At the end of the day, with the Pepinero defender clutching a bag of cucumbers bought from the local market as mementos, it seems to be: Mission accomplished, Rodri!

Club Deportivo Leganés

Founded in 1928, C.D. Leganés caught the fancy of every football fan ever since setting foot in Spain’s first division, LaLiga Santander, back in 2016.

After twice staving off relegation, the club approached the new season with the enthusiasm of one of LaLiga’s true up-and-coming sides, by finishing a respectable 13th in the 2018-19 season, having previously spent many years in the lower reaches of Spanish football. Moreover, the club reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals in 2018.

Known as Los Pepineros, C.D. Leganés as a club represents its city, Leganés, which is located right at the center of Spain near Madrid. They play their home matches in Estadio Municipal de Butarque which host up to 12,450 spectators.

An interesting fact about the club, C.D. Leganés was Samuel Eto’o’s first club in Spain.

Rodrigo “Rodri” Tarín

Born in Chiva, Valencia, 22-year-old Rodrigo Tarín began his career in Barcelona’s lower divisions playing for FC Barcelona B the last three years, where he won the 2013-14 UEFA Youth League and scoring a ninth minute goal in the final.

Tarín has been the captain of Barça B in the last part of the 2017-18 season in the Spanish Second Division. He also was a regular part of Spain’s youth teams. Tarín, stands out for being a versatile defender who can play the role of fullback and centerback positions. His imposing stature and aerial strength also makes him a threat through his heading ability making him an attacking option in set-pieces.

Tarín made a total of 18 appearances for C.D. Leganés in LaLiga, where 15 of those matches as a starter for a total of 1,429 playing minutes.

Photo credits: C.D. Leganés

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Toni Doblas’ tenure with Ceres-Negros ends, hints at possible retirement

Ceres-Negros FC confirmed via their social media channels that Spanish veteran goalkeeper Toni Doblas’ stint with the Filipino club has come to end.

The keeper himself followed up with a social media post confirming that his affiliation with the busmen has indeed come to end, he even hinted of a possible retirement.

But English journalist, Sid Lowe, who is covering Spanish football was quick to reply to the keeper with some words of encouragement.

Toni Doblas has been the first choice goalkeeper of head coach Risto Vidakovic in the 2018 season . His arrival has been one of the biggest news for the club in the buildup to thepast year’s campaign due to his impressive resume where he played for and built a name for renowned La Liga clubs Real Betis and Real Zaragoza.

He began his Asian sojourn playing for India’s Delhi Dynamos in 2015-16, before being with Ceres-Negros as his most recent stop where he was able to help the club attain the 2018 Philippines Football League championship – the busmen’s second straight domestic league title in the fully professional era.

He also featured in the club’s momentous AFC Champions League qualifying campaign reaching the playoff round where they were able to beat Brisbane Roar before eventually being eliminated by Tianjin Quanjian against the likes of star players Pato and Axel Witsel.

In the 2018 AFC Cup, Toni Doblas was instrumental in the club’s run to the ASEAN Zonal Final where they lost to Singaporean club, Home United.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC