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.

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

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.

Azkals launch new LGR kits for World Cup Qualifying

The Philippine Azkals together with LGR Sportswear launched the new Azkals Kits for their Asian World Cup Qualifying Campaign last night at SPARTA in Mandaluyong City.

In a first of firsts, the Azkals tapped local sportswear brand in LGR to produce the kits gor them.  Currently the biggest local sportswear brand across Philippine Sports, LGR produced home (white) and away (blue) kits including other team accesories.


Like the Azkals, LGR also came from humble beginnings from a modest dress shop to a leading brand serving teams from the UFL, PSL, PBL, and the PBA.

IMG_4132LGR EVP Rhayan Cruz

 Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami

The launch also featured LGR’s footwear partner in Adidas Philippines who provided the Azkals with top of the line (unreleased) boots for their campaign.

Adidas Ace Boots

 Adidas X Boots

These boots will be launched soon according to Patrick Giron of Adidas Philippines. The event was hosted by football player and SPARTA owner Amanda Fernandez.

            Azkals Crew with LGR’s Rhayan  

Whats your UAAP Sports Superstition?

Coming in to Game 2 of DLSU-UST Finals, I wore the exact same shirt, shorts, shoes, and even socks during the first Final Four game against FEU.  True enough, We (DLSU) won by a convincing margin similar to that game.


My Buddy (former Green Archer in training) Rich Minerales introduced me those superstitions and rituals while we were in our first year in Taft.  As a football player coming from Bacolod, we were not as superstitious like our basketball counterparts. These guys would bring rosaries, wear lucky basketball shoes, and even tie their shoes a certain way.

Rich acquainted me to such things like ‘winner of the jump ball wins’ which then evolved to ‘first team to make basket wins the game’.  We even formulated the UAAP rule where the first team to reach 70 automatically wins.  This rule was eventually broken by the hot streaking FEU team against (ironically) DLSU in the first round which makes it now just 99% accurate.

I used to have a white UMBRO shirt that I used to wear before in DLSU Football and Basketball games.  The shirt was a good fit aside from its white & green color but I realized that I seem to lose all the games I attend with it.  I initially thought that it was all in my head and that a shirt will never be a factor any game but ultimately gave up when my friends in the Men’s Football team lost a crucial game with them comfortably ahead because of bad luck.  I never wore that shirt again and if memory serves me right, I threw it away.

Looking back in the first game with FEU, I unknowingly put my water bottle in the floor and FEU went on to make a big run. Recognizing this, I put it back on my right side and we won the game comfortably. I was again superstitious the second game of the Final Four against FEU. Because it was a weekday, I was wearing my usual business attire and sported my 2007 Championship shirt over my long sleeved one.  With FEU red hot coming into the third quarter, my superstition switch just triggered and decided to take off the t-shirt.  La Salle made a mini-run but FEU came back with a booming 3 to answer. Desperate for a solution, I transferred my mineral water from the left to my right side.  DLSU came back to win and seal their seat in the Final.

Having been to many UAAP Finals games, me and my brother, Ric Alvin Gayares, have formulated Superstitions of our own.  We have never won a live game in the Araneta Coliseum when we are seated in the Upper Box A section. This happened in Game 2 of the 2001 Finals against Ateneo and in Game 1 of this year’s final against UST.  Never again.  In addition to my superstition list, I brought winning tickets from previous FIBA and UAAP games yesterday, and yeah, we won emphatically.


In a few minutes after finishing this piece, I am going to the laundry shop to have all of yesterday’s game clothes washed.  In Game 3, I will wear the same clothes, bring all my lucky charms, and pray for a DLSU Men’s Basketball Championship.


How about you? Whats your UAAP Sports Superstition?