After winning its first two titles in BGC and Bacolod, Cebu will aim for a three-peat, this time at home when the AIA Vitality Kampeon’s Cup takes place at the Dynamic Herb Sports Stadium on Sept. 22 and 23, 2023.

It’s a belated homecoming of sorts as the AIA Vitality Cup was supposed to be played in February 2020, but we all know what happened during that era. Covid-19 happened, and everything non-essential had to be canceled. In fact, I remember the Kampeon’s Cup was the first to cancel its event in Cebu, with the rest following suit.

Now, three years later, Cebu is a two-time defending champion and will compete with Bacolod, last year’s losing finalist, Iloilo, Davao, Palawan, Pampanga and Zamboanga.

Will playing at home be an advantage for the Cebuanos, or will it add extra pressure? I guess we will find out next week.

By the way, the Kampeon’s Cup is the fastest-growing football tournament in the country. Just last season, it had over 700 teams competing in the local 7s elimination, according to Anton del Rosario.

Del Rosario, one of the members of the 2010 national team who is now the face of the AIA 7s, said a larger player pool and better competitions mean a stronger Philippine team that will represent the country in the BPI AIA Asia 7s or in the Winner Take All tournament.

Although the AIA 7s had various local eliminations last year, the national event pitting champions is only for the men’s open division. I hope that will change to include the age group champions too.

You see, while there are many football festivals in Cebu, the AIA 7s is different. I’ve seen some teams back out after learning that for P3,000, they only get a guaranteed three 15-minute games. Though it follows the seven-a-side format, the AIA 7s game is longer.

In the past, there have been Cebu teams that joined the Alaska and Rifa Cup, ending up as champions. But I have no doubts that these teams—Don Bosco, Ateneo and Springdale—would love to be national AIA 7 Kampeon’s Cup champions as the Cebu representatives.

Expanding to include age groups is something Del Rosario is considering.

“We have to start with the Men’s Division 1 to serve as role models. But the idea is to have different age groups that will aid in their development. We have increased the number of cities this year from six to eight and hopefully more next year, along with the addition of age groups,” he said.

Now, that’s something I’d really like to see.`