CEBU

Villaflor: Finally, the PPL begins

Footnote

AFTER months of anxiety, speculation regarding the fate of domestic club football has come to an end as the Philippine Premier League finally launches tomorrow, April 27, at the historic Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

The inaugural match features Globe Green Archers United FC vs. Mendiola FC 1991 at 4 p.m., while the main feature pits Philippine Air Force FC against Kaya FC Iloilo, which will be shown live on 5Plus on 7:15 p.m.

The rebooted league might not be the ideal domestic tournament many fans hoped for, but the PPL in its current form is better than nothing.

And I’d rather focus on the positives that the league would bring, following the near freefall of its predecessor, the Philippines Football League.

For one, having a functioning domestic league ensures the country’s participation in high-level international club competitions, particularly the AFC Cup and perhaps the AFC Champions League.

Over the past few years, Philippine clubs have had a relative success in the AFC Cup. For instance, Ceres Negros has emerged as one of the strongest clubs from Southeast Asia.

But clubs like Ceres need a domestic tournament to ply their trade regularly, which is why the new PPL deserves the support of every football fan in this country.

And if you can’t be physically present at tomorrow’s opening, then do watch the high-octane encounter between the Airmen and Kaya live on 5Plus.

AFC CUP. Speaking of Kaya FC, the Iloilo-based team will have a gruelling schedule ahead. After tomorrow’s PFL match, they will fly to Bacolod City to host Lao Toyota at the Panaad Stadium in the make-or-break matchday five of the AFC Cup.

At third place, Kaya (5 points) needs to win its last two matches to have any chance of advancing to the next round. Cellar dwellers Lao (1 point) drew Kaya back in Laos last February, so the visitors won’t be anything but easy opponents. Home United (7 points) will be waiting for Kaya in Singapore on May 14, the final matchday.

In contrast to Kaya’s struggling performance, there’s no stopping the Busmen in Group G as they continue to run over their opponents with purpose.

The latest Ceres victim was Persija Jakarta, arguably Indonesia’s most popular club.

As Ceres barely survived the Indonesians at Panaad 1-0 in their first encounter, everyone was expecting Persija to exact revenge on Ceres at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium last Tuesday.

The 35,000 hometown fans at the stadium expected just that as Persija surged to a 2-0 lead at halftime. Ceres had other plans, though, and clawed their way back late in the game.

Miguel Tanton initiated the comeback with a 70th-minute goal, followed by an equalizer by Bienvenido Marañon on the 85th minute. Mike Ott completed the comeback on the second minute of added time with a cooly slotted flick off a lovely cross from Stephan Schrock.

Watching the live feed of the match on Facebook, I almost felt bad for Persija and its fans. But this is Ceres with a win that’s one for the books.


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