Pro-football is alive once again in the country as the third season of Philippines Football League (PFL) has finally commenced with a double header concluding in Rizal Memorial Stadium last Saturday, May 25, 2019.
The first fixture, which kicked off late in the afternoon saw Copa Paulino Alcantara champions Kaya-Iloilo as the winners after registering a comfortable 4-0 win against league newcomers Green Archers United.
The almost one-sided match was then followed by a highly anticipated clash between defending champions Ceres-Negros and a much reinforced Stallion Laguna which delivered on its hype, ending in a 2-2 draw in what could possibly a meeting between two of the three clubs that could be the Philippines’ next AFC tournament representatives.
With four of the total seven teams already done with their first assignments, here are the initial talking points regarding the league after the start of Season 3:
Battle for trophy and AFC spot could be the toughest yet
With Stallion Laguna surprising Ceres – considerably the best club in the country at present – with a 2-2 draw, it is possible that the Bacolod-based club’s predictable domination of seasons past could be coming to an end.
Although The Busmen are still being tipped to win this season for the first and outright AFC Champions League or AFC Cup berth, Coach Risto Vidakovic’s men could be pushed to the limit to wrest their third PFL trophy, with a slim chance of even coming up short it if they slip up in the same way as they have shown in the draw against Stallion.
With Coach Ernest Nierras’ Biñan-based club hungry to build a run of positive results after two seasons of inconsistencies, add to that Coach Noel Marcaida and his Kaya-Iloilo wards’ drive to be back in the continental stage after falling short in surviving the 2019 AFC Cup group stage, Ceres should be wary of their backs as they attempt to maintain the pace and keep setting the standard in Philippine club football, particularly their continental ambitions.
TV would still help a lot (on top of livestream)
It is such a shame that the scintillating match between Ceres and Stallion flew under the radar for the most part due to unavailability of traditional live media such as TV and radio. Same thing with the quality of Kaya Iloilo and the potential of Green Archers United that were shown during the earlier fixture.
But given the situation with the PFL being revived in haste due to valid circumstances that significantly delayed the season’s start, a TV (or even radio) deal is yet to be confirmed.
Yes, livestream on the internet has been a very helpful form to fill the void, but the medium still has some limitations that limit the matches’ full accessibility to the masses particularly to the fanbases outside Metro Manila such as Bacolod and Iloilo (even Biñan to an extent).
Hopefully, a reasonable TV deal could be ironed out and matches will be aired soon.
Interesting campaigns for newcomers and rebuilding clubs
Despite Green Archers United turning out to be on the receiving end of a comprehensive 4-0 beating at the hands of “Man of the Match” Jordan Mintah and the rest of Kaya, the vanquished squad actually showed glimpses of their quality and potential particularly in the second half.
Head Coach Joel Villarino’s wards could actually face a much realistic litmus test in this league when they face co-league debutants Air Force and Mendiola FC 1991, as well as a rebuilding Global Makati (which they face on May 29).
At the moment (on paper at least), there seems to be a demarcation line on the quality of the pool of competitors in the PFL as the most probable top three (Ceres, Kaya and Stallion) would likely pull away from the rest of the pack in their quest for the trophy and a continental berth, while the four new and rebuilding clubs would battle it out for the honor of being the best of the rest.
It would be very much welcome if this assumed gap in quality be proven wrong as the season comes to a conclusion, and at least one of the four aforementioned clubs predicted to be in the bottom four would end up in the top three. But for now, it is just refreshing to see these league newcomers, yet established names in the Philippine footballing community, compete in the top flight and show their distinct styles of play.
Photo credit: PFL