I FIRST covered the Aboitiz Football Cup as a newbie correspondent for another paper back in 1997. It was the second edition and back then, it was just a small tournament for the men’s division and had teams like M. Lhuillier and Sopicones de Mabolo. There were alumni- powered teams, too, but those two I mentioned were what I remembered because one was coached by Graeme Mackinnon and featured a reunion of the last Cebu team to win a national title, while the other got involved in a brawl.
That brawl ended quickly because one Jack Biantan, all 6-foot and 300 pounds of him, rushed to the field and began forcibly separating players while daring anyone to fight him instead. “Isog mo?”
And believe me, if you see a mad Big Jack rushing to the field, the first thing in your mind is to get out of his way.
From one division, the Aboitiz Cup added the women’s open and a youth division and I remember me and Graeme MacKinnon were pressuring the then CFA officials to add more youth divisions but they wouldn’t because those were the only three divisions in the PFF calendar.
A boom in age group football and a change of officials finally saw the Aboitiz Cup adding more boys and girls divisions and now, as far as I know, it’s the biggest 11-a-side tournament in the country. Sure there are football festivals in Manila that has more entries but those are two-day seven-a-side games, while the Aboitiz Cup features the full 11-a-side match and runs for months.
When I first talked about it, Manila-based football reporters were impressed at the Aboitiz Cup. For Cebuanos, the Aboitiz Cup is just a regular thing that happens annually but for someone who grew up learning the sport in another region, Cebuanos are lucky they have a private entity willing to spend millions for the sport.
With a new generation of the Aboitizes taking over their companies, some of whom have played in the tournament themselves, the future of the tournament will be outside Cebu.
A dream set-up would be Aboitiz having different Cups in the other areas where they have a commercial presence and having the champions of those cups meet each other in a Champions League sort of set-up in Cebu.
That may not happen this year or next year but I’m confident that it will happen. Perhaps when their new full-sized turf in Liloan is finally constructed?