football-pitch

OPINION: Double whammy of concerns in Philippine Football

This past weekend has been quite an eventful one for “The Beautiful Game” in the Philippines.

LICENSE TO PLAY – LICENSE DENIED!

With just exactly a week ahead of the kickoff of the Philippine Premier League (PPL), the Philippine Football Federation released an official statement that three clubs, namely Mendiola FC, Philippine Air Force FC, and Espana United have been denied licenses that would technically forfeit their participation in the upcoming league.

The decision can be considered a major concern for now especially for fans as it would mean that the pool competitors in the upcoming domestic league is now further lessened down to five.

Five is such a low number when it comes to competing clubs in a tournament. That’s only one team more for an outright semifinal stage, while two more compared to an outright podium finish. If this proceeds which such a number of teams, then this league is going to be – sorry for the word- nothing else but farce. Chances are, even most school-level intramural tourneys may even boast more teams.

So, will the PPL proceed with just five teams then? Most probably not. Contingencies could come into play for the league to push through with the initial seven clubs (which is already quite a few).

It will be quite an interesting next few days as the PPL gets closer to commencing its maiden season, and the few football fans in the country are surely on a high in terms of the anticipation for the wrong reasons (but it still generates interest, probably).

Also, many fans seem to be pointing the finger to PFF for this issue, but there could be some legitimate reasons behind the denial of licenses. The PPL is still not giving an official statement regarding it and is not airing any reflex negative reactions so they maybe are aware and receptive of the federation’s decision.

In spite of this unpleasant development, here’s to hoping still for the PPL to overcome this challenge and be able to push through with reviving an already ailing domestic club football scene. Because a five team league won’t cut it and may have repercussions that would reach the country’s standing when it comes to eligibility of Filipino clubs to compete in the AFC competitions.

THE PLIGHT OF OUR FOOTBALLING YOUTH

On other fronts, the Philippine U-23 Team has just completed two matches in the ongoing AFC U-23 qualification tournament in Malaysia. So far, the results have been far from desirable (diplomatically speaking). 

The team opened its campaign with a 3-0 defeat against hosts Malaysia. The scoreline may have been a dominant one for the hosts on paper but actually, Malaysia were lackluster. They could have scored more if not for some squandered gilt-edged chances. 

And with goalkeeper, Michael Asong, the best player for the Philippines in that match with several key saves, it tells a lot that the national team could be in for a very long day come their next match against China.

Indeed, it has been a nightmare that won’t be easily forgotten against the East Asian powerhouse made it a no-contest with an 8-0 mauling, putting the Filipino squad virtually out of the running to qualify for the main event in Thailand.

With such a lopsided result and a doomed campaign after just two fixtures, the hard fact comes to the forefront once again: The Philippine football setup for the youth is far from ideal to produce an internationally competitive squad.

The current team is mainly composed of student athletes in a program that is not football-centric in terms of development.

Our players, naturally gifted and physically sound as they are, are still raw when it comes to competitiveness in junior international levels.

We may have Dylan de Bruycker, Jordan Jarvis, Dean Ebarle and Troy Limbo who have experience in football academies and/or professional level, but they won’t suffice if the opposition are already in reserve or even starters (even stars) in their respective senior club teams. It’s actually a no-brainer. The difference in quality is obvious on the pitch!

For now, it’s no wonder that the senior team, the Azkals, still scout overseas-based eligible players to play for the squad.

The longer one sees the current situation of Philippine youth football, the more it seems like a “chicken and egg” scenario. It’s not even a grassroots thing. The problem lies in the transition from grassroots to the elite level. The setup to bridge that gap is where the challenge lies.

Presently, typical local-based young Filipino footballers playing either in the streets or grassroots programs who have potential to take their talents to the next level just don’t have the means to receive sustained training and development to being an elite or professional unless they have the financial means to go overseas for trials in the hopes of being accepted into academies.

Only Filipinos, or kids with Filipino heritage, based overseas (mainly in a footballing nation) can have such an opportunity to be able to further their footballing abilities and qualities towards a more advanced phase.

Currently, there are football training centers locally that are starting to raise the bar in terms of developing talent, but they are still far from the levels of other footballing nations (even in comparison to our Southeast Asian neighbors).

So, it seems the domination of local born-and-raised talents in the national teams is still far from happening. It might even occur that our youth squads will have the same setup as the senior side in the near future.

A “Chieffy” Caligdong doesn’t come by regularly (Jovin Bedic could be at closest thing at the moment), while chances for a Pinoy kid lighting up the streets somewhere in the province being discovered and plucked by a massive foreign club is quite impossible yet at this point in time.

Until we produce youths who went up the ranks in the football development ladder and not through the usual (at least in the Philippines) school varsity system, expect our junior national football teams to get regularly schooled in international football.

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Green Archers United and Mendiola FC unveil kits for PPL

Green Archers United and Mendiola FC 1991 prepare their return to domestic club football’s top-flight after years of hiatus as they unveil their respective kits for the inaugural PPL season.

With the design reveals of both clubs, comes one word: Anticipation. The reason is both teams came up with equally mouthwatering designs that will definitely pique their supporters’, or even football kit collectors’ interests to purchase the shirts that their players will wear on the pitch.

Green Archers partner with a local kit supplier, Cutz Apparel, that is founded just this 2018 according to the company’s Facebook page. But, despite being a new player in the kit business, their designs for the Weekend Futbol League – Elite champions for their maiden PPL season are quite solid.

As for Mendiola, their kit supplier is Indonesia-based FAT Sportswear, which initially was focused on goalkeeping equipment, mainly gloves, before expanding on football apparels.

FAT’s first foray into the Philippine club football scene happened last year when they supplied the gloves of Filipino goalkeepers Louie Casas [currently of Kaya Iloilo] and Ronilo Bayan Jr. [currently of Ceres-Negros].

And with the initial designs released by FAT Sportswear, it seems Mendiola FC 1991 may have taken the driver’s seat in terms of ‘kit aesthetics’ department.

Without further delay, here are the kit designs of both clubs:

Green Archers United

Mendiola FC 1991

As of this writing, it is not yet known if these on-pitch outfits will be available for purchase to fans but let’s hope they hit the shelves soon!

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Seven teams vie to be PH club football’s best in inaugural PPL season

On March 1, 2019, the Philippine Premier League (PPL) formally announced that seven teams will compete in its first season which is set to begin on March 30.

Three of the clubs are from the now defunct PFL, or Philippines Football League, namely defending champions Ceres-Negros, cup champions Kaya Iloilo, and Stallion Laguna.

One club comes in as reincarnation and a rebrand of a financially beleaguered club, Global Cebu, in the form of United Makati after a change of name and sponsorship.

What’s interesting though are the addition of three clubs: Green Archers United, Mendiola FC 1991, and Philippine Air Force.

These three organizations may be newcomers to the PPL, but they have very much been a part of competitive club football scene in the country in the recently past especially during the United Football League (UFL) era.

Green Archers United was founded by football players of De La Salle University in 1998. The club is about to join the fray in the professional level with much optimism after emerging as convincing champions in the semi-professional Weekend Futbol League’s Elite Division in late 2018.

Meanwhile, Mendiola FC has been in existence since 1991 (as shown in their updated formal name of Mendiola FC 1991) being closely affiliated with San Beda University and its well-known football varsity programs.

The club might have been on hiatus for quite a bit when it comes to competing in the semi-professional and professional levels after their forays in the UFL, but such a situation adds mystery and anticipation on how they will compete in their return to the domestic top-flight.

Lastly, the Philippine Air Force FC returns to the pitch once again after being one of the major forces and constants in Philippine football through the years particularly in the early phase of the UFL.

Producing homegrown football heroes such as Ian Araneta and Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong, The Airmen garnered a solid following back in the day and it will be exciting to see such a core of supporters back again on the terraces to be the 12th man of the storied club.

The Philippine Premier League kicks off its season on Saturday, March 30, with a double header at the Rizal Memorial Stadium with the first match at 4:00PM while the second fixture will be at 7:00PM. The 7:00PM match will be shown live on ESPN5 Plus and will also be available via online stream.

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Global FC relocates to Makati, familiar venue being eyed as home

In a social media post, Global FC are in the process of finalizing their relocation to a new home base which started with a change in their club crest design, dropping Cebu and replacing it with Makati.

To add a bit more info on this development, club chairman Mark Jarvis has shared via an online interview that they are eyeing a very familiar site as the club’s new venue.

“We are [currently] pushing for UMak [University of Makati Stadium] as [the new] home stadium and training facility.

“We are seeking support from the Makati City Hall to make this happen,” said Mr. Jarvis.

University of Makati has been an all too familiar venue when it comes to domestic football, particularly in Metro Manila as it hosted matches from way back the UFL days and was also the home of Kaya FC during the inaugural season of the now-defunct Philippines Football League [PFL] last 2017.

On the issue regarding unpaid wages

The club boss also responded on the matter regarding the current status of the still outstanding issues regarding the overly delayed wages of players and staff.

“Finances are progressing and player payments may happen as soon as this week, but [may take] over a few months [to be completed].”

The reason for such statements by the club executive is a new business partnership has jut been forged with the club, the identity of which is yet to be announced. But the deal (again, according to the club chairman), has been signed already as of last Friday.

Photo credit: Global FC Facebook page

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CONFIRMED: Kaya FC Iloilo new 2019 kit sponsor

Copa Paulino Alcantara champions, Kaya FC Iloilo, are set to be decked out with Adidas in the upcoming 2019 season.

In his Instagram post, goalkeeping coach Ref Cuaresma is already donning the training kit by the German brand. And although the home and away designs are yet to be unveiled, at least we see a glimpse of what’s in store in terms of the club’s new look ahead of the campaign kick-off.

Adidas has been a well-known and established brand when it comes to football not just on the pitch, but even off it – especially if it pertains to the sport’s fan and terrace culture.

Definitely passionate Kaya faithfuls have something to look forward to off-pitch as they anticipate getting their hands on their beloved club’s merchandise, or better yet… “clobber”.

Kaya FC Iloilo are set to begin their preseason preparations on January 24 in a friendly against Malaysia Premier League club Sabah FA to be followed by another friendly match against domestic rivals and defending league champions, Ceres-Negros on January 29.

The Iloilo-based club begin the season by competing in the AFC Cup as they face Lao Toyota on February 27.

On the domestic front, Kaya FC Iloilo are set to compete in the newly branded league, the Philippine Premier League, which is set to begin on March.

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Philippine Premier League matches to be aired live on TV

At the launch of the country’s new top-tier professional football competition, the Philippine Premier League [PPL] on January 23, a TV partnership with ESPN5 has been in place which will air at least 23 league fixtures.

It is to note that television coverage has been a challenge in the previous seasons and the development for the coming season under a completely new league brand is a positive aspect that football fans in the Philippines should look forward to as partial coverage of matches will be shown on free to air TV.

Aside from the airing of complete matches, regular updates with highlight reels are also expected which will be shown via the sports network’s nightly magazine show, SportsCenter.

And with the emerging new media, the league is also planning to take advantage of such platform therefore live streaming of fixtures is also being planned.