Martir saves Villa Angela in Negros Open Quarters

Villa Angela FC came from a goal down to salvage a 2-1 win over Atletico de Bago last September 1 at the Ramon Torres Sports Complex in Bago City. Team Captain Patrick Martir scored the winner, minutes from time, to seal VAFC’s place in the Negros First-Dynamic Footbal League Mens Open Semifinals.

The veteran squad started off the back foot when a foul at the edge of the box gifted Atletico with an early penalty in the first ten minutes. The home squad did not make a mistake as Amaguiton converted from the spot to put Bago ahead. The visitors tried their best to score an equalizer but the home squad was resolute to keep the scoreline till the halftime whistle.

Villa Angela didn’t waste time after the restart as Paolo Sanchez scored the equalizer for the visitors and make things interesting in the last quarterfinal match. Both teams pushed for a winner with Villa Angela setting the tempo in the remainder of the match.

It wasn’t until injury time when the former St. La Salle and Ateneo standout blasted a ball from thirty-yards towards to the top corner to complete the comeback for VAFC and secure the semis matchup versus San Carlos City FC.

In other results, La Carlota City FC edged Escalante FC 2-1 to seal the semifinal clash with STI-West Negros University who routed Cadiz City FC 6-0. San Carlos walloped Himamaylan 3-0 and will host Villa Angela in the first leg of their semifinals on September 9 in San Carlos City.

All photo’s from Negros First DFL men’s open 2k17 Facebook Page

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.

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

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)

Disparity in the UFL

It doesn’t look pretty. For casual observers and outsiders it seems absurd, criminal even. Double-digit scorelines and almost half-century goal differences abound. The Philippines’ “premier football league” has been taking some slack since day one. But its worth revisiting the context of why this happened this season.

A Look Back

It seems such a long time ago when Philippine Army FC was the first club to drop out from the league in 2015. The Armed Forces outfit took on a Korean partner whose money ran out just before the first round break. With resources virtually non-existent (a norm in Philippine football) and with unpaid participation fees, the club was disqualified from the league. They were the first out the door but they weren’t the last. Manila Jeepney and Pachanga-Diliman also had to leave for their own reasons after the season.

The second division also had problems of its own. With two of its top teams — Laos and JP Voltes — promoted, there were no teams left in the second tier of the league. Laguna Kabuscorp was a fluke, Team Socceroo took a pause, Army was already out, and Mendiola was a one-time thing. Only three teams were left and it didn’t deserve to be called a second division. Nomads showed up late in 2015 which made it a 4-team possibility.

A Decision Had To Be Made

With 8 teams in the first division and 4 in the second, there was an urgent need to reinforce the lower division. An open invitation was sent out but none replied. Without more teams, the second division could not stand alone. It was decided that both divisions would be merged.

It wasn’t an easy decision. League executives knew very well the gap between teams and deliberated heavily on the pros and cons. The professionals and the amateurs. The haves and the have-nots. But in the end they didn’t have much choice. They couldn’t turn away from the second div teams. Most of them are pioneers of the league, they also deserved a piece of the action.

The Season

The league was abuzz at the transfer window. Promotees were bulking up. Laos had good names moving in, same with JP Voltes. Agila revamped their team with UAAP finalists. Pasargad had a partnership with another club that showed promise. Nomads had some players lined up to make a difference.

The gap was still there, but the changes gave some glimmer of hope, hope that the gap would be reduced come kickoff. The stage was set. It was time to play. Week one passed and we saw Kaya score ten over Laos and a no-show by Agila. For two consecutive weeks we saw Kaya and Ceres winning by double digits. Ceres won by a 16-goal margin.

In context it was acceptable. The weaker teams earn little or no salary at all. The bigger teams pay a lot more. The scoreline was predictable. It is also worthwhile to note that some of these teams had luck escape them in the first round. The game changing players of Laos never showed up and the Pasargad partnership failed. It was game-time decision for some clubs to see if they could even complete a starting eleven. It’s disappointing, but it happens.

So What’s Next

The league break is upon us and the transfer window is at hand. Other teams can still reinforce their clubs, some might even reconsider their participation based on their abysmal performances. Right now, its still business-as-usual. The league will continue as planned from August to October. The lessons, well, they can be used for next year’s league, if it happens. The National League may or may not start in 2017, but that in itself is a whole other story.

Negros Occidental FA claims PFF-Smart U22 Amateur Championship

Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA) claimed the first PFF-Smart U22 crown after beating Davao FA 1-0 in the final match. Charles Barberan proved to be the difference as scored the deciding goal in the second half. The St. La Salle Stinger scored also scored the lone winner in the semis earning him MVP honors for the tournament.


NOFA was at the backfoot after Davao’s attacking players managed dangerous shots on goal in the first half. The home team settled in the second half, pressing the Mindanao squad which eventually led to the winning goal.

The squad is made up of players from Negros qualifying Champs Central Philippine State University (San Carlos), University of St. La Salle, and University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos. Coached by the legendary John Carmona, the NOFA squad got the job done after intense preparations highlighted by a friendly match against UFL League champions Ceres-La Salle FC.