This has been a great month for football, and the resumption of the AFC Champions League that features United City FC and Kaya FC Iloilo makes it even better.
United City is the first Philippine club to qualify for the Champions League, but on June 22, 10 p.m., Kaya will also be aiming for a place in history as it goes up against Shanghai East Asia in a playoff for a group stage slot in Thailand.
If Kaya advances, it will face BG Pathum United of Thailand on June 26 in Group F, where Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea and Viettel of Vietnam also await.
Reigning Philippine Football League titlists United City, meanwhile, is bracketed in Group I alongside Asian club heavyweights Beijing Guoan of China, Kawasaki Frontale of Japan and Daegu FC of Korea.
United City will face Beijing Guoan in Uzbekistan on Saturday, June 26, the first time a Philippine club gets to play in the main tournament of the AFC Champions League.
The competition in the Champions League, though, will be the toughest yet for United City, whose previous international matches were mostly with the AFC Cup.
In an interview with the Asian Football Confederation website, the AFC Cup’s all-time goalscorer Bienvenido Marañon acknowledged that the club’s opponents in the group are “at a very different level from us” and are stronger physically and technically.
“We just hope to enjoy each match and learn from each of our opponents,” United City’s prized forward said.
But the Spain-born Marañon, whose naturalization as a Filipino is in the final stages of approval, stressed the importance of the club’s debut in the Champions League as a milestone for Philippine football.
“It is very important for Filipino football. The sport in the country has been growing in recent years thanks to the good work of the federation and the national team. They are taking slow but sure steps for the future, and all this makes them even stronger,” Marañon told the AFC.
“I hope that our participation in this competition can serve to take another big step that the country needs so that football can become an important sport for them,” he added.
Hopefully Kaya joins United City in the group stage, so we can witness not just one but two homegrown clubs write a new chapter in Philippine football history.
June 21, 2021
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