NOFA and Negros Occidental to launch NegrosFirst DFL Mens Open

The Negros Occidental Football Association together with the Provincial government of Negros Occidental will launch the NegrosFirst DFL Mens Open Provincial Championships on July.

According to NOFA General Secretary Ronald Allan Treyes, the provincial league will feature a possible twenty-four teams from across Negros Occidental and Bacolod City. Northern teams will be represented by six different cities such as Cadiz, Victorias, Escalante, Sagay and San Carlos. Bacolod will be bannered by CGM, Villa Angela FC, and will include six other teams. Bago, Himamaylan, Pontevedra, and Kabankalan will spearhead the south that will consist of eight squads.

The Championship will feature a unique format where the elimination will be held in different cities for the north and south divisions . The north division can have matches in the Sagay pitch one week and San Carlos in another while the south can have Bago, Kabankalan, and many others alternately. The Bacolod elimination will be played in either the North or the Santa Maria field.

The quarterfinals will see eight teams with the three of each from the north and south elimination with two coming from Bacolod eimination. The quarterfinals will be held in  cities/LGUs who have a good crowd and have shown good hosting capabilty in the eliminations. The winners of the one-game quarterfinal will feature in a two-legged home-and-away semi-final, a first in Philippine club football. The final will be played in either the Panaad Stadium or in the best host city in August.

Villa Angela FC in last year’s tournament

“We’re trying to achieve the objective of President Ricky (Yanson) and Governor (Freddy) Marañon to promote football in our province. Of course for our youth, that they can see what they can be in the future and see the importance of their grassroots training,” added Treyes.

The tournament will effectively spread club football to the other cities and municipalities with Ceres-Negros only playing in the capital. “We want to spread the game in other areas, especially those who can’t watch the AFC and PFL games in Bacolod. At least they have a chance to witness good football with this tournament,” added the NOFA Gen Sec.

Opening ceremonies will be held on July 1st in Bacolod and Pontevedra for the City and South divisions with the North Division opening on a later date. Football action will start on July 2 with the first match in the Bacolod division.

Yokohama kicks off Football Cup

Yokohama Tire Sales Philippines, Inc. (YTSP) kicked off the Yokohama Football Cup last May 20 at the McKinley Hill Football Stadium in Taguig City. The Japanese tire brand extends its support to the local football scene with the two-day event that featured over a hundred teams of ten different age groups.

Yokohama has been the shirt sponsor for Chelsea Football Club the past two seasons with the north London club clinching the English Premier League title this 2016/2017 season.

Participating teams played a 7-a-side format with the age groups set on different schedules throughout the weekend. The 8 & 12-under teams opened the festivities Saturday morning with the Womens category closing the tournament on Sunday.

The only tire brand that produces its products in the country is looking to help Philippine football in their own way. “We are trying to somehow push more awareness for football in the Philippines” said Shawn Pamintuan, Marketing head of YTSP. “From this year and to the next few years, we would like to concentrate our efforts in supporting the football events in the Philippines,” Pamintuan added.

YTSP President Satoshi Hariyama highlighted the similar values in sports and in his company. “Sports have always been close to the heart of Yokohama. The effort and discipline that athletes put in to improve their skills can be likened to exacting dedication of Yokohama in consistently producing quality tires. We hope to highlight this similarity in supporting football in the Philippines.”

The event organized by CAN Sports saw at least a thousand spectators in opening day. Aside from the football, participants were also treated to mini-games in between their breaks. The same crowd is expected on the second day for the last day of the tournament.

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

Azkals vs Harimau: A tale of contrasting fortunes

The Philippine Azkals and Harimau Malaysia are set to square off for a friendly on March 22 in preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying with both teams coming into the match with contrasting fortunes.

Some luck for the Philippines

It’s no secret that Philippine club football is in a temporary hiatus, with the Philippine Football Federation leadership preparing for its forthcoming National League, putting the domestic game to a halt. The Azkals are lucky however because a good portion of its core players are participating in the AFC Cup for Ceres-Negros and Global removing doubts on fitness issues brought about by the extended break. Both clubs have been playing at a high level regularly since February and players from these clubs are expected to be favorites in the starting eleven.

It also helps that some players are coming in from abroad where fitness and timing is not an issue. Neil Etheridge and Daisuke Sato are coming in from Europe where the football season is at its peak. Javier Patino and Mike Ott are also coming in from China and Thailand whose leagues have already commenced. The rest of the local players will have some catching up to do on their local counterparts. Loyola’s James and Phil Younghusband, Kaya’s Kenshiro Daniels, and Stallion’s Fitch Arboleda have

Issues for Malaysia

The Malaysians however have a different story with domestic and International issues putting preparations for the Asian Cup qualifying on-hold. The Football Association of Malaysia will hold a major election which will include the presidency of Malaysia’s football governing body. A win by favorite Tunku Sultan Ismail, owner of Malaysian powerhouse Johor Darul Ta’zim, could mean a big change for the national squad.

Reports say that current Malaysia Coach Ong Kim Swee could be on his way out with the possibility of a former JDT Coach coming in to manage the squad. Many of JDTs stars have prematurely retired from international football in 2016, following complaints on training methods, but the retirements were largely viewed as political move from the Johorian club in protest of the current FAM administration. Their return and the coaching change could be a big boost for Malaysian football but will somewhat peg the national team back to square one in terms of preparation.

The recent diplomatic tensions between Malaysia and North Korea have forced the Malaysian government to ban the Malaysian squad from playing their March 28 match in Pyongyang. The banhas forced the AFC to move the match to a neutral venue with the date set back to June 8.

What’s at stake

For the Philippines, cohesion leading into next weeks opening match with Nepal is the target for home squad. The schedule between the international break and the AFC Cup has been tight leaving the players with less time to rest and prepare against Malaysia. With players dishing out good performances in the regional stage, the Azkals would be fighting for their place in the starting eleven.

For Malaysia, the current team is determined to get a win for their Coach who has been a true professional in dealing with the current issues and is still grieving with a loss in his family. The match will also serve as an audition of the current squad should changes occur in the new FAM administration.

The recent use of FIFA rankings as a seeding tool in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying by the AFC would also mean that Asian teams could no longer take International friendlies for granted. A win is necessary as a it could spell the difference in the qualifying draws for future tournaments.

Both teams last played to two 0-0 draws in 2014 with matches held in Selayang and Cebu. The two matches also served as debuts for Thomas Dooley and Ong Kim Swee as coaches of their respective teams.

The match will be played on Wednesday (Mar 22) with kickoff scheduled at 730PM. There will be no local tv coverage but a livestream will be made available at the PFF website.

Felda United Scouting Report

Introduction

Photo from Felda United Wikepedia Page

FELDA United was established in 2007 by the Federal Land Development Authority, a Malaysian government entity. Also known as “The Fighters”, the club has been in and out of the Malaysian Premier League and the Malaysian Super League since its existence with its best finish in last year’s top flight placing second to JDT in the MSL.

FELDA was at the top of the table most of the first half of the league but JDT bounced back in the latter half earning 58 points in a historic unbeaten season with FELDA producing 43. Malaysian pundits declared at the start of the season that FELDA United will have difficulty emulating last year’s finish because of a coaching and foreign player change. Mohamad Nik is the caretaker manager after appointed coach Azmi Mohamed left after the club’s third game.

Players to Watch
Foreign Players
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) employs a 3+1 foreign player rule where 3 Non-Asians and 1 Asian player can be included in the line-up of different clubs. This allows the development of local talent within the country and the continent.

#5 Moutaz Jounaidi (Defender)
The Lebanese defender has represented his country many times in international level and is currently the main centerback for FELDA United. The 30-year old is very experienced using his height (1.88m) to command control at the back. Pairs well with either Nor Fazly or Shukor Adan for the central defense.

#8 Lucas Cano (Forward)
The Argentinean striker is currently on loan to Felda United. Almost breaching 6 feet and just 21years of age, the lanky striker has already scored four times for the squad this season and will be the target man for the visiting side.

#23 Gastón Cellerino (Forward)
The veteran striker has been a journeyman in South America, Europe, and the United States. The 30-year old has come off the bench in both AFC Cup matches playing in either striker or winger. Standing at 1.85m, this Argentinean forward will be another threat for the Malaysian outfit.

#8 Zah Rahan Krangar (Midfielder)
The Liberian midfielder has been a mainstay of FELDA and was instrumental in their winning record last year. The 32-year old has played for his national team and was a long time player in the Indonesian circuit scoring 60-plus goals in ten years. The diminutive player (1.65m) moved to FELDA in 2014 and has scored plenty since.

Local Players
#9 Norsharul Idlan (Forward)
The 30-year old veteran is one of FELDA’s key signings this season. He brings himself a wealth of experience in the top flight and International experience as one of Malaysa’s better strikers. Norsharul was one of the most sought after players during his prime.

#7 Stuart Wark (Midfielder)
The Scottish-Malaysian midfielder played for JDT last year with him trying his luck with FELDA in the current season. Influential in the midfield using his strength to his advantage, the defensive midfielder has started both AFC Cup games.

#27 Hadin Azman (Midfielder)
One of Malaysia’s talented youngsters at the age of 22, the midfielder can play either side of the wing and even attack from the middle. A former youngster in JDT who took his chance in FELDA for a starting role in 2015, he has since thrived in his attacking roles with 9 goals in 30+ appearances.

#12 Shukor Adan (Midfielder/Defender)
Shukor Adan is one of Malaysia’s most popular players. Having played a while until his international retirement in 2014, this 37-year old has been regarded to be one of the best defensive midfielders in Malaysian history with 50 caps to his name. Currently he plays both centre mid and central defence for FELDA.

Possible Formation & First XI

Strengths
Very good offensive awareness by attacking players
Very good counterattack

Weaknesses
Many of the local players are past their prime
Inconsistent backline

Opportunities
Injuries or experiments have cause different backline combinations
Yellow card situation (4 yellows)
Offensive approach by away team (Must win for Felda)

Threats
Improving run of form
Desperate football (Must win for Felda)

Tactics

Felda has scored twice in the tournament with both goals coming from long range. Opportunistic strikes that punished both opposing keepers. The Malaysian outfit is naturally a good counter attacking team but have some difficulty building up against good defensive teams.

Felda United will approach the game with a 4-2-3-1 to maximize the efficiency of #10 Zah Krangar behind the striker #8 Lucas Cano. The Malaysian squad did well against Hanoi by scoring early but conceded late in injury time. Their tall strikers as the defensive target have allowed their midfielders some creativity in the midfield. Zah Krangar, might be small, but he has been a good engine up front with his mind off defensive duties that is taken care of by Stuart and Syahid.

Only one of the Argentine strikers are used in most of the games as they accommodate the highly paid veteran Norsharul on the left and young player Hadin on the right. Things might be different in the next game as either one of the wings might be given up ion the attempt to win the game. Expect FELDA to press well and attempt to get an early goal.

The back four is a tricky subject. The usual centerback pairing is the Lebanese Mootaz with veteran Norfazly but injuries might have forced Felda to use Captain Shukor Adan as centerback. FELDA have plenty of options for their wingbacks but they are believed to be available for MD3. The central defense seems to be the weakest part of FELDA and they must be tested comprehensively.

With the current AFC Cup format, FELDA has no choice but to force a win against Ceres in order to keep their hopes of progression alive. Hard pressing is expected from the visiting side including a high line which the home team should attempt to capitalize.

Highlights

Tampines vs Felda (Highlights)

Felda vs JDT (Full Match)

Felda vs Hanoi (Highlights)