Is there parity in the PFL?

The Philippines Football League is set to start on May the 6th with its curtain raiser in thKaya-Ceres match at the University of Makati Stadium. With the existence of supposed ‘super’ teams in the league, the average filipino football fans asks: Is there parity in the PFL?

If we look at pre-season friendlies and training matches, no PFL team has come out unbeaten. Global and Ceres have been beaten by Stallion. JP Voltes has made easy work of Ceres. Loyola beat Ilocos but the northern squad has also beat Stallion who also beat the Meralco-backed squad. The results seem to be promising but do these practice games really tell the big picture?

Typical practice game sessions consists of two thirty-minute sessions with another twenty-minute one to complete the match. Clubs can play whatever combination they like in those periods and are usually not required to play the first team. There was one instance when Loyola played a team full of tryout attendees where one period saw Loyola fielding in a foreign eleven and a filipino eleven in another. Practice game sessions are usually used to test players and experiment on combinations that a club can use.

Pre-Season tournaments carry more weight as teams are exposed into a real match scenarios. The Stallion invitational early in the year was a good way for the clubs to gauge their teams performance in a competition environment. The hosts came out as winners of the pocket tournament which they won in extra time against a toughened Meralco squad. The win catapulted Stallion as contenders in the league but it also showed that that other teams can really catch up especially Loyola who they have played tough matches and Ilocos who have beaten Stallion in a separate match.

So what about these ‘heavyweights’? Ceres has announced the signing of Stephan Schröck this week. The Bacolod giants add another piece to what is deemed a very deep lineup where some online football fans regard the move as ‘overkill’. Global was deemed to have won the foreign player lottery with quality signings that compliment a strong first eleven. The added combiantion of Wesley dos Santos, Shu Sasaki, and Darryl Roberts have been instrumental in bringing them to first place in their AFC Cup group.

These clubs have achieved some improbable wins against regional heavyweights in the AFC Cup. Global has beaten Johor Darul Ta’zaim while Ceres has dumped Hanoi FC in their home matches. What our AFC Cup representatives have done has been nothing short of a miracle.

So does this mean the other teams are short changed given Ceres and Global’s AFC Cup success? I don’t think it is the case. The rest of the teams have the upper hand in scouting the ‘favorites’ and at this point already know how to beat them.

Last year’s United Football League had its fair share of title-changing results. Green Archers United put then Ceres-La Salle on its knees while JP Voltes brought Global down to earth with big wins. The win by the Archers altered the title chase gifting Global with a cushion comfortable enough for them to seal the 2016 UFL title. This year is no different.

So is there parity in the PFL? I would say yes. With all the teams consolidating this year together with the unpredictability of pre-season results, we can safely say that were up for a surprise in this inaugural season. 

New kit, players for Meralco Sparks

Meralco unveiled its new kit and and introduced their new players for the 2017 Philippines Football League season.
The club in partnership with Master Sports (official Mizuno distributor in the country) showcased their orange and black shirts together with a white third kit. The event also inked the partnership with the Kit provider who will provide match, training, and travel gear for the team.

The club’s new players were also unveiled from transferees, foreign players, and new local signings. The new foreign players include defender Milan Nikolic (formerly of Global) and defensive midfielder Lee Jong Min. Transferees Alvin Sarmiento (Green Archers), Jean De Los Reyes (Pasargad), and Jim Ashley Flores (Stallion) have joined.

L-R: Tyler Matas, Ashley Flores, Neil Dorimon, Jean De Los Reyes, James Hall, Lee Jong Min, Alvin Sarmiento, Conner Tacagni, and Edien Velizano)

Greenhorns from the collegiate ranks have also made the team. San Beda’s Connor Tacagni and Neil Dorimon together with Benilde’s Edienzel Velizano have made it to the squad. They will also be joined by foreign based pinoys in James Hall and Tyler Matas.

Specials guests in the event were the Philippine Marine Corps – Football For Peace Foundation led by Rookie Nagtalon who have been in partnership with the Sparks in the last five years. Midfielder Simon Greatwich bared his experience with the foundation a few weeks ago when he traveled to conflicted areas in Southern Mindanao to teach kids football as well as transferring knowledge to coaches.

The Sparks will have their PFL debut on May the 7th when they face Stallion Laguna in Binan. A separate launch for the change in club name and crest is in the works.

Some talking points before the Philippines Football League launch

The Philippines Football League (PFL) is set for a grand launch on April 21 for what is deemed to be the first professional league for football in the country. Here are some key talking points of the upcoming league prior to its launch.

What is the PFL?

For the benefit of readers outside of Philippine Football, the PFL is a professional football league in the Philippines that will be considered the highest level of mens football competition in the country. The league will see eight participating football clubs from all over the Philippines namely: Ilocos United, JPV Marikina, Kaya FC – Makati, Loyola Meralco Sparks, Stallion Laguna, Global Cebu, Ceres-Negros, and Davao Aguilas.

The eight teams will play a double-round home and away fixture that will see teams play 28 games each where they will play each other four times. The top four teams will will feature in what is called the Final Series where they will compete in home-and-away semifinal legs with the semifinal winners playing in a one game Grand Final. The league will also serve as a qualifier for the Philippines in the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup.

League details? What details?

Fans and the media alike have been in the dark with regard to the specifics of the league. High level information has been provided by PFF leadership regarding the participating teams, competition format, and official tv partner but basic things like the league logo, an initial fixture list, and official media platforms such as a website and facebook page were not made available in advance. Many superfans have resorted to creating their own support pages to generate discussion and even content to hype up the league.

A ‘Philippines Football League – PFL’ page exists but it seems to be made by a fan. I tried to create facebook pages under the Entertainment > Sports League category with the names of ‘Philippines Football League’ and ‘PFL’ and was successful. Also tried to create a duplicate PBA page under the same category but was not allowed to by the platform. My little experiment may not prove much but these little details or lack thereof may be telling. I’ll hold on to the facebook pages temporarily for safekeeping. In the case of match fixtures, they can be delayed given that a deal for broadcast has only been made recently and picking games for broadcast is known to be a difficult exercise. The mention of a logo being included in the launch gives everyone hope that most of the basics would be available come Friday.

The teams are ready to play

The only thing that is assured of in the league from the surface is that all the participating teams are ready to play. Global, Ceres, and Stallion started their pre-season early with the first two teams competing in continental competition. Stallion meanwhile has been the busiest with pre-season matches as early as January, a team and stadium launch, and an invitational tournament that was joined by most teams. Former United Football League teams like JP Voltes, Loyola, and Kaya have ramped up their preparation and tune-up games in the last few months to keep in step of the first three. The two debutantes in Davao Aguilas and Ilocos United seemed to have finalized their pool of players with Ilocos getting more familiar names and Davao doing a training camp with their young core in Singapore.

The teams have also secured their home stadiums, a task that is a feat in itself considering that most of the infrastructure is owned mostly by city and provincial governments. Securing the stadium is only half the problem as the improvements to the infrastructure and most importantly the field of play are necessary. The Marikina Sports Stadium pitch for example needs some improvement as a recent photo showed some areas of dryness and overuse. Most stadiums might also need to meet the minimum security criteria with the exception of Panaad and Rizal Memorial which has already passed stringent AFC standards.

What do we expect from the launch?

The official invite of the event describes it as the ‘Official Launch and Draw Ceremony’ of the Philippines Football League. The launch component is expected to provide all the finer details in the league and hopefully answers to the different details mentioned previously. Official league sponsors may also be present in the launch to promote the partnerships who will help bring the league forward.

What has not been mentioned though is the purpose of the draw ceremony. My best guess is that the draw will be the final step to fill-in an already made first round schedule and replace Team Numbers with actual club names. The opening match might be determined by this exercise.

Photo from the United Football League Philippines

[April Fools] Philippine Football League delayed to 2018

The upcoming Philippine Football League will be delayed to January 2018 according to a source in the Philippines Football Federation. The league was slated to start this April but was moved because of a major issue.

“We encountered a roadblock for the opening match,” said an anonymous source inside the federation. “We want to make this a very good opening for the league but met an unexpected challenge along the way,” the source added.

An interview with the interested teams also welcomed the delay of the league. “We cant move forward unless this problem is resolved,” said a team manager who requests for anonymity. “I mean we love the sport and we play football week in and week out and we but the federation needs to resolve the issue first before we start the league,” the team manager added.

Unconfirmed reports say that the Federation was planning an opening show in the grandest scale with song and dance numbers from top Filipino celebrities and international artists prior to the opening match. The opening however hit a snag when two teams fought over Lisa Soberano as the team muse in opening day. The issue is largely blamed to the actress’ manager whose a verbal commitment was secured by one team, but offered Lisa to another after cash was offered on the spot.

“It’s very ugly. I’m not talking about Lisa, I’m talking about situation” said the Philippines Football Federation source. “The teams have gone to court and hopefully it will be resolved on time for the opening. I hope it doesn’t reach the Supreme Court. Lisa is a very very beautiful actress and we want her to be in our opening day”. The actress nor the manager could not be reached for comment.

The Philippine Football League is not related to the Philippines Football League of the Philippine Football Federation. The Philippines Football Federation is a federation of American Football enthusiasts in the Philippines and must not be confused with the Philippine Football Federation that is involved with Soccer.