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

AFC Cup Preview: JDT v Global, Ceres v Felda

Its Philippines versus Malaysia this week in the 2017 AFC Cup and nothing but fireworks are expected in both ties. Johor Darul Ta’zim will host Global Cebu in Johor on March 14 while Ceres-Negros will face FELDA United in Bacolod the day after.

JDT v Global

Malaysia Super League Champions Johor Darul Ta’zim will meet United Football League Champions Global Cebu FC in a Group F tie on Tuesday. It will be the first meeting of both squads in AFC competition with the top spot for Group F will be at stake. Global is still perfect after two matches highlighted by their recent 2-0 win against Boeung Ket Ankor in Phnom Penh. JDT played its reserve unit in match day 2 and settled for a 1-1 draw with ten men against Magwe in Yangon and the Malaysian champions are out to recoup lost points in this tight race to the top.

With JDT expected to bring out its best eleven, interesting individual battles will be seen throughout the match. Philippine International Misagh Bahadoran and Trinidadian Darryl Roberts and will have to deal with the defensive partnership of Malaysia’s Junior Eldstal and Brazilian Marcos Antonio. Former Azkal Paul Mulders will be pitted against former Malaysia Captain Safiq Rahim in a key battle in midfield. Global’s Amani Aguinaldo and Brazilian Wesley dos Santos will have a tough task ahead against Hazwan Bakri and Argentinian Gabriel Guerra.

JDT last played a Philippine squad in Kaya FC with a 7-2 trashing at Larkin stadium in the Round of 16 of the 2016 AFC Cup. Global is keen to improve its record in the AFC Cup against Malaysian teams after getting double 0-0 draws against Pahang in the 2015 edition. Though pundits have marked JDT as the favorites in this match, Global is keen for an upset in front of the Johor fans. The match will kickoff at 845pm in Johor.

Ceres vs Felda

Ceres-Negros FC will host Felda United in Match Day 3 of Group G in the AFC Cup. Ceres has just come-off from a 5-0 win against Tampines Rovers which elevated them into first spot in the group. Felda almost came off with its first win against Hanoi at the Shah Alam stadium but the Vietnamese squad came up with a last minute goal for the 1-1draw. Both squads qualified for the group stages of the tournament after placing second in their respective leagues last year.

Ceres has had a history of tough matches against Malaysian clubs especially against Selangor in last year’s AFC Cup. Their opening match in Bacolod saw Selangor scoring first with a brilliant free kick from Hafiz Kamal until Ceres equalized late with a Stephan Schrock strike. Both teams played the second leg in the Selayang Municipal Stadium where Ceres forced a 0-0 draw which consequently allowed them to qualify for the Round of Sixteen of the 2016 AFC Cup.

The tie will feature a new challenge for both squads in all areas of the pitch. Fernando Ceres’ Spaniards Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon will slug it out with central defenders in Lebanese Mootaz Jounaidi and Malaysian legend Shukor Adan. Manny Ott will have to deal with Scottish-Malaysian defensive midfielder Stuart Wark in the midfield. Argentinean striker Lucas Cano and Liberian Zah Krangar will be a handful for Carli de Murga and Super Herrera.

The Bacolod squad will gun for a second straight victory but the visitors are fully aware that a win is the only way for them to reach the next round of the tournament. A capacity crowd is again expected at the Panaad Stadium to support the home team. The match will be aired at 7PM on Wednesday.

Photos from AFC Cup/Lagardere Sports

Azkals vs Maldives: Match Assessment

The Philippine Azkals beat a young Maldivian side 2-0 last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.  The match comes as a tuneup before they face top ranked Uzbekistan and it gave the Azkals a chance to try new things before the big game.  Here is The Perfect Pass’ assessment of the Azkals performance.

   
Goalkeeping

Its no surprise that Neil Etheridge is the starter for the Maldives friendly. The Walsall shotstopper was the default choice after starting the first two games of qualifying.

Though the Maldives only had a few chances, Etheridge held his own saving three dangerous balls and once charged out the box to clear a possible one-on-one.  Having four keepers in the lineup is a bonus with Roland Muller, Patrick Deyto, and Jun Badelic in reserve.

Defense

Daisuke Sato, Jerry Lucena, and Amani Aguinaldo started in the same order at the back for the Azkals but the combination didn’t last long. Lucena and Aguinaldo eventually switched to their more natural positions.  The defense was modest with Aguinaldo cleaning up with Sato and Jerry were playing by their usual.

At the half, Sato was subbed out with Ingreso moving to his spot. Kenshiro Daniels also came later in the half to replace Lucena.  The young backline was initially nervy which led to a counter attack by the Maldives but the play was closed out well.

Ingreso played very decent at the back showing composure and vision beyond his years and adding another possible defender to the fold.  Daniels didn’t last long in defense as he was switched with Dennis Villanueva who proved his defensive skills at the last quarter of the match.

 
Midfield

Stephan Palla, Kevin Ingresso, Phil Younghusband, and Stephan Shrock made up the attacking midfield of the Azkals.  The combination struggled in the first half because of lack of familiarity, but flashes of brilliance were evident when linking up with the forwards.

Palla, who just flew In the day before, had an average outing linking up well with Ingresso and Iain Ramsey in some ocassions.  Ingresso took on the attacking midfield role in front of Younghusband who took on the holding role.  It took a while for both center mids to adjust as the Maldivian defense was solid in the middle. 

The combination which was replaced in the end wit Paolo Bugas, OJ Porteria, Paul Mulders, and Dennis Villanueva (swapped with Daniels) was a more entertaining bunch showing more fluid passing and familiarity from the UFL.  Bugas showed great defensive awareness while Porteria showed his capacity to spark the Azkals attack.  The untested combination showed that there is a threat even with the most unlikely combination.

Forwards

The forward trio of Iain Ramsey, Patrick Reichelt, and Misagh Bahadoran started for the Philippine squad.  All three were effective but the defensive orientation made it challenging for the three. It took some time for chances to materialize as changes in the midfield affected fluidity in the attack.

Bahadoran was subbed off and Shrock moved up in his place.  The move rekindled the connection between old teammates which led to  more dangerous opportunities. Javier Patiño played in the final fifteen to and with him came some good shots on goal.

Overall

Though the goals did not come from the forwards, the persistence of the team bore fruit with the Maldives’ own goal and Lucena’s header.  The opportunity to play most of the team was good as it allowed the coaching staff to asses combinations available in case of suspensions and injuries.  Though the Maldives may have gained more from this match, the Azkals may have just learned enough in order to be successful in the next big games against Uzbekistan and North Korea.

Adidas and Ricky Rubio #TakeOnManila and Football

Spain Basketball and NBA star Ricky Rubio recently had his Take On Manila tour and with it came a visit to The Younghusband Football Academy – Chelsea FC Soccer Schools.

  

Rubio was welcomed by Pinoy Footballers and James and Phil Younghusband who gave him a walkthrough of the football academy and the progress of football in the country.
 

The NBA star then gave some words to the academy youngsters, talking about his younger days where he enjoyed playing football with his friends up to the present where he still takes up the sport in the offseason.

  

The Spanish player then proceeded to play with the different youngsters of the academy from the six year olds up to the teenagers.

watch Ricky Rubio play with little kids

The session ended with a crossbar challenge between Ricky, Phil, James, and Magic 89.9’s DJ Tony Toni.  Phil hit the crossbar in his first try while James got it in his second. Rubio, who was wearing the brand new Adidas X15 boots, took a while but finally hit the crossbar after many close tries. 

 

When asked about his favorite football team, the talented guard had no hesitation in saying “Barcelona” who is led by World’s Best Player and Adidas endorser, Lionel Messi.

Adidas Philippines unveils new generation football boots: X, ACE

Adidas, the undisputed leader in football, has recently launched their new generation football boots to the Philippine market named X and ACE last July 4 at Sparta Philippines.

Gone are the Predators, F50s, and Nitrocharges. Now there is only chaos and control.  There is only X and ACE.

The X, also known as X15, is made for the game changer in the likes of Thomas Muller, Luis Suarez, and Alvaro Morata. Built for speed, the X is intended to cause chaos against the opposing team.

The ACE is designed for control and build order in a game.  Made for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neur, and Ivan Rakitic, the ACE15 gives the player a distinct advantage on precision and control which largely epitomizes these world class players.


Footballing brothers James and Phil Younghusband presented the new boots highlighting the strengths of each type where James representing the ACE and Phil with the X.


Football standouts from the high school level up to the professionals from the United Football League were split into two groups to test their top of the line boots.  The X15 participants drilled in an obstacle course for speed and finishing while ACE15 participants were challenged with their precision and control with a shooting course.
There was also 2-a-side challenge from each division with La Sallian teams winning in the youth divisions.  De La Salle Zobel won the high school division while DLSU bested Ateneo in the college division.  Thee event was hosted by football enthusiast DJ Tony Toni of Magic 899 and spearheaded by Patrick Giron of Adidas Philippines.

The Perfect Pass will give a full review of the the two adidas boots soon.

[Azkals WCQ] A quick look on Match Day 2 opponents: Yemen

By Ivan Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)

As the Azkals prepare for its second match in World Cup Qualifying, let’s take a quick look on the Azkals opponents in Yemen.

 It will be easy to take Yemeni’s lightly given they are the lowest seed in the group but their narrow 0-1 loss to powerhouse DPR Korea says otherwise.

In their first match, the Koreans pressed heavily in the first fifteen minutes leading to several goal scoring chances only to be denied by their talented keeper in  Mohammed Ayash who once was in the U17 World Cup in 2003.

Their defense also held their own as they were able to minimize DPR Korea’s speed and superb passing most of the time.  The Yemen backline also had to contain North Korean giant striker in Kwang Ryong Pak.

It took seventy minutes and a power of a volley from Hyok Un So to break the Yemeni defense.  Something that the Azkals should note given that DPR Korea is a relatively faster and is a more cohesive team.

Yemen’s number 10 in Aiman Al Hagri seemed to be the trickiest in front together with captain/striker Ala Al Sasi.  The Azkals’ opponents seemed to be lesser than Bahrain in the counter attack but their short passing game is intact, a standard in all Middle Eastern countries.

It is interesting to note that the the last win of Yemen came against Pakistan in the first round of World Cup qualifying to the score of 3-1.  This was the same scoreline when the Azkals beat the same opponent in the 2013 Peace Cup.

The Yemen squad uses a 4-4-2 formation, a standard formation designated by the Czech Coach whom they just recently trained with in Doha, Qatar. The team was reported to have taken a 13 hour boat ride from their war-torn country.

The Azkals meanwhile are expected to field the same formation but Coach Thomas Dooley may try to experiment with new players to try new combinations in the squad.