Villaflor: Crossing my fingers for Ceres FC

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Thursday, May 8, 2014


IN my previous column, I wrote about the hectic football schedule in the next few months.

I mentioned the ongoing 2014 AFC President’s Cup group stage at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, where Ceres-La Salle FC is representing the country in the club tournament, as well as the upcoming RHB Singapore Cup featuring two UFL sides, the Champions League Final, and the World Cup.

Age must be catching up with me because I somehow forgot to mention the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives, wherein the Philippine Azkals will be competing starting May 20. Good thing that my good friend Arielle Biteng Cruz was quick to inform me of this oversight, which in sports journalism is the equivalent of a handball. In the penalty area.

CRUCIAL TOURNEY. The Challenge Cup is crucial because the winner of the tournament qualifies for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. An Azkals qualification to the more prestigious Asian Cup will be a massive step for Philippine football.

With a team that has reinvented its game under coach Thomas Dooley, who in turn has manager Dan Palami’s back, the Azkals have a huge chance of winning the Challenge Cup.

The Azkals are bracketed in Group B against Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Laos, teams, in Dooley’s own words, our side can beat.

But as Dooley himself warned, this is football, where no result is certain, and anything can happen. We can compare notes, FIFA rankings, players’ skills and experience, but at the end of the day, it’s how the players perform on the pitch that matters.

A CERES OF FORTUNATE EVENTS? Hopefully, yes. And speaking of performance, Ceres was impressive in its first game: a 2-2 draw against tough North Korean club Rimyongsu, which boasts of at least four former or current national team players in its lineup.

Then again, Ceres is no pushover, as it carries current or ex-nationals as well: Carli de Murga, Patrick Reichelt, Juan Luis Guirado, Ed Sacapaño, Marwin Angeles, and Jason Sabio, among others.

As of press time, Ceres was going up against Tatung FC of Taiwan, perhaps the weakest in the group. Then tomorrow, the Bacolod-based club will face another difficult side, HTTU Agabat, Turkmenistan’s top league winners last year. Agabat was battling Rimyongsu as of this writing.

I’m crossing my fingers that things will go Ceres’s way at the Panaad Stadium, and that the club will do this passionate hometown crowd proud.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 09, 2014.

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