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

2014-2015 PFF-Smart Nat’l Club Championship: Loyola, Global reach final with extra-time wins

It took extended minutes for both Loyola Meralco Sparks and Global FC to beat their rivals and reach the final of the PFF-Smart National Club Championship.  Loyola advanced through a Phil Younghusband goal while Global had two successive strikes from Mark Hartmann and substitute Denis Villanueva to add separation in extra time.


Loyola Meralco Sparks 1 – 0 Stallion Gilligans

Matt Hartmann put the Loyola-based squad ahead in the first half after 10 minutes while Simone Rota equalized minutes before halftime.  The second half was saw plenty of missed opportunities from both sides with Loyola having the advantage in shots and possession.  Nothing materialized as the the game went on to extra time.

The younger Younghusband made the difference in the second half of extra time as he broke away from his defender only to be denied a goal scoring opportunity with a hard tackle from a Stallions defender that seemed to be inside the box.  The referee blew his whistle and gave the defender his second yellow and marching orders but the match was restarted with a free kick on the edge of the box.

The top Azkals goalscorer was unfazed with the circumstances and still put one behind the net putting the ball in the top left corner which was well beyond the keepers reach.  Loyola extend their unbeaten run to 4 games with 3 wins and a draw.

“I think were a little bit strong in the first half, really, should have put away more chances  and maybe we didnt keep their keeper working hard enough. But fair play to Stalllions, they gave it everything they had it was always gonna be a good semi they are work very very hard and after getting that 1-1 with Global they are gonna be a tough side they were never gonna give up.  As much as I wanted to avoid extra time especially with the schedule weve been playing, very pleased to be in the final.” said Loyola Caach Simon Mcmenemy.

Global FC 3 – 1 Ceres-La Salle FC

Global clawed their way back from a 1-0 deficit after the first minute to a thrilling win the final 15 minutes of extra time.

Manny Ott put the Bacolod squad ahead in the first minute when his corner kick curled in uncontested into the top corner.  The last time the two teams met, Global also conceded a very early goal against Ceres in the 2014 UFL FA League Cup.

Global pushed hard after that which saw Hartmann hitting the corner of the woodwork in the 9th minute.  The ball interestingly rolled to an open Hikaru Minegeshi afterwards but the Global players’ simple tap in went directly to the post.

The Dan Palami-backed squad had better possession and shots forcing Ceres Goalkeeper to have his first of many saves in the 19th minute.  Possession was even in the remaining minutes of the first half as both teams had their chances but none of them dangerous enough.

Minegeshi atoned for his earlier miss as he layed-off a Misagh Bahadoran pass to an open Marky Hartmann to equalize just three minutes after the restart.

Both teams traded shots and half chances in the next few minutes with no team having a clear advantage.  Martin Steuble made his Ceres debut when he came in as a substiute in the 68th minute.  The change was effective as Ceres was getting the momentum from a tiring Global squad.  Pressure from Ceres almost lead to a Kanagawa own goal in the 75th with Patrick Deyto saving his teammates kick.

Ceres had a golden chance in the 90th minute when striker Patrick Reichelt was clipped inside the box awarding the Bacolod squad with a penalty.  Steuble stepped up to take the penalty but saw his shot going over the bar which pushed the game into extra time.

The current National Club winners took control on the first half of extra time having majority of possession and shots. Steuble and Okuinaiya had chances but both were well wide for the Vallacar Transit Club.

Ceres maintained their control at the start of the second half of extra time which saw an early chance for Reichelt that went over the bar.  Global in the meantime had substitution in extra time with Sam Bonney and Dennis Villanueva relieving the tired Global players.  The substitutions bore fruit as Villanueva rebounded on an initial counter attack to put Global ahead in the 111st minute.

Moments later an ensuing corner kick from Ceres was punched out by Deyto.  Ceres’ Jeff Christaens recovered the ball from twenty-five yards only to see his well placed shot punched away by Deyto.

On the 114th minute,  Hartmanns’ patience was rewarded as he hesitated on a an initial try but found a better angle to put one more shot inside the Ceres goal to increase their advantage and book their spot in the final.

The third place match between Ceres and Stallion will start at 4PM while the main event will be at 7PM, January 31 (Sat).  Both games will be played at the Rizal Memorial stadium.