IT’S just 11 days before the Philippine Premier League (PPL) kicks off on March 30, but the “rebranded successor” of the Philippines Football League (PFL) has yet to release the complete fixture schedule.
We’ll find out later this week, they say, and so we wait with bated breath.
So you’ll know, the PPL will be played mostly in Metro Manila. For Filipino football fans in the provinces, this is one hard reality to swallow.
The PFL intended countrywide matches, but logistical challenges proved too much for the league. Further, the lack of sponsors and live television coverage meant the league needed to recalibrate so it will continue to exist.
Without a top-tier league, the country cannot participate in major club tournaments run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). If I’m not mistaken, an AFC-affiliated country must have at least six clubs in its domestic competitions to participate.
The PPL barely made the cut with seven: Ceres–Negros, Kaya–Iloilo, Green Archers United Globe, Mendiola, Philippine Air Force, Stallion Laguna, and United Makati (the club formerly known as Global Cebu).
Right now, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has two participating clubs--PFL 2018 champions Ceres and Copa Paulino Alcantara 2018 champions Kaya--in the AFC Cup.
Philippine clubs have had a decent run since the PFF joined the tournament in 2015, and Ceres and Kaya are on course to qualify for the AFC Cup 2019 knockout rounds.
After Matchday 2, Ceres has since racked up two wins against Shan United and Becamex Binh Duong, while Kaya has a win against Home United and a draw with Lao Toyota.
Both teams still have four games each in the double round robin group stage. Ceres will play two games next April, while Kaya will be busier with three matches.
One of the welcome developments in the local football scene is that 5Plus has been airing Ceres’ and Kaya’s AFC Cup matches live. Even better yet, the channel will broadcast featured PPL matches live as well.
As it reverts to a more Manila-centric approach, club football in the country without doubt is in survival mode right now, but at least there’s enough momentum and interest to keep it afloat here and abroad.
Hopefully more clubs based in the provinces like Cebu will get another crack at participating at the national level. Would a reformatted Copa Paulino Alcantara Cup offer such an opportunity?