After years of careful studying and planning, the Philippine Football Federation has officially announced the creation of a new football league for the Philippines, The F.League.
“After almost three years of preparation, we’re actually here”, said PFF President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta. “The F.League is a representation of all of us in the national football community and we are very happy to have started this endeavor to strengthen the regional competition and eventually make this country a great footballing nation,” he added.
The F.League, which is a shortcut for Filipinas League, is set to start on February 2017 with 12 clubs from all over the country. Majority of the clubs are from the United Football League coupled with new teams such as FC Biñan and Cebu City FC.
The league name was decided upon by the PFF National League Task Force which is similar to Japan’s J.League and Singapore’s S.League. “The choice of ‘F’ over ‘P’ was academic as to differentiate the new league from the old P-League,” said Araneta. The PFF President was referring to the now defunct P-League which was established in the early 90’s after Philippines’ success in SEA Games football.
The use of “Filipinas” as the league name went through the approval of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) before it was allowed to be used in the league’s incorporation. The government body, who pushed for the use of “Filipinas” over “Pilipinas”, was delighted over the proposed name. “Masaya kami na napili ang Filipinas na pangalan ng isang ligang pampalakasan sa ating bansa,” said KWF Commissioner Teddy Bhoy Locsin.
UFL Clubs had to follow the naming standards set by the PFF prompting many of the clubs to rename their clubs with their home locations. Ceres-Negros FC, Stallion-Iloilo FC, Kaya-Makati FC, QC-Meralco Sparks, Global-Tacloban FC, and Taft Avenue FC.
“We actually like the change of the name to Ceres-Negros as we are representing the whole Negros Island in our games,” said Ceres and Azkals player Juani Guirado.
“It’s quite nice that we’ll be able to represent Quezon City in the F.League which will allow us to bring the games closer to Metro Manila’s biggest city. I’m delighted to be part of this league and playing for this city just means a lot to me and Phillip,” said Sparks Captain James Younghusband.
The most intriguing name change is Taft Avenue FC, formerly Green Archers United FC. With the closure of Manila Jeepney FC, the club wanted to represent both the cities of Manila and Pasay with management choosing to name it after the road traversing both cities. “I think hindi pa to nagagawa sa history ng football kaya masaya kami na magrepresent ng dalawang cities dito sa Metro Manila,” said Taft Avenue Captain and Azkals Legend Chieffy Caligdong
Newcomers in FC Biñan and Cebu City FC are no pushovers given that these new clubs have formed partnerships with European giants FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC. Biñan, who will be known as FCB, has partnered with FCB Escuela to provide training for the youth and will serve as the scouting arm of the current world club champions. The Laguna-based team will be getting player loans from the Catalan capital to strengthen the new side.
Cebu City meanwhile has a bigger partnership as it is partially owned by Manchester City FC who also has ventures in New York City FC of the MLS and Melbourne City of the A-League. “I’m very happy that my favorite EPL club will be represented here in the Philippines. I might even consider a move to Cebu,” said Philippine Football pundit Bob Guerrero. Manchester City has a forty percent stake in the Cebu club, a limitation set by Philippine law.
The inclusion of the Manchester outfit in Philippine Football is already causing quite a stir as they have already sent big-money bids to Ceres players and Cebu natives Louis Michael Casas and Arnie ‘Dodz’ Pasinabo. Cebu City is also set to bring in Filipino-Australians from their Melbourne counterparts to make it a force to reckon with in the F.League.
The league, however, has to resolve the issue with its infrastructure as only a few cities have the capability to host games according to AFC Club licensing requirements. Only Bacolod, Cebu, Binan, Manila, and Makati are the cities with qualified stadia to fulfil this requirement. This has forced some of the clubs to temporarily share home stadiums such as the Rizal Memorial and UMak.
“The stadium sharing is temporary as it will take time for the clubs to have their own. Right now, we just have to start somewhere in order for our league to grow,” said Araneta. Teams such as Kaya Makati and QC Meralco will share UMak while Global-Tacloban and Taft Avenue United will share the Rizal Memorial.
With the creation of the F.League the UFL will be the regional league for the Greater Metro Manila area while new regional leagues will be created for Northern Luzon, South Luzon, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Western Mindanao, and Eastern Mindanao.
The winners of these leagues will feature in a year end tournament to decide who will be promoted to the top flight the following year. The bottom team from the F.League will be automatically relegated to the regional league while the second-to-the last team will feature in a relegation playoff.
Since it’s past April 1st. Happy April Fools Folks! Don’t worry, the national league will come. So be ready.