IF you haven’t heard, the 2018 Philippines Football League (PFL) just kicked off last March 3. There was little fanfare, while excitement among fans, was quite tempered. Right now, the PFL isn’t really in a good place as it faces gargantuan challenges in its second season. Still, there is no arguing the importance of the country’s professional league, and in good times and bad, the PFL needs our support. Without a pro league, football in the country will go nowhere. There are many ways of showing our support to the league and its clubs, such as liking and following official socmed pages and accounts, buying club merchandise, and watching the games whenever possible, whether online or at the stadium. And then, of course, you can get to know the league itself better. Let’s start with these bits of info to make ourselves more familiar with the PFL and the current season:
1. From eight clubs in the inaugural season, the PFL 2018 Season is now down to six clubs: defending champions Ceres-Negros, Davao Aguilas, Global Cebu, JPV Marikina, Kaya-Iloilo, and Stallion Laguna.
2. Giants Meralco Manila and minnows Ilocos United FC both announced their withdrawal from the league last January. Meralco ceased operations due to lack of investors, while Ilocos pulled out after failing to find a new naming sponsor. Ilocos hopes to return soon, though.
3. The PFL 2018 Season apparently has done away with the Finals Series format. Instead, the league will have two rounds of home and away mathches, plus a “final round hosting via drawing of lots.”
4. A total of 75 league matches will be played in the 2018 season. The six clubs will play 25 matches each, facing each other five times.
5. The PFL 2018 Season will serve as qualification for the AFC Champions League Preliminary Round or AFC Cup Group Stage.
6. After the 2018 league season, the six clubs will see action in the inaugural PFL Cup, which will kick off in September 2018.
7. The Liga Futbol Inc. is the management body behind the PFL. Its CEO is Lazarus Xavier, while its Board of Directors is chaired by Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano Araneta.
8. Among PFL’s partners are sports equipment company Molten, and sports data and digital content firm Sportsradar. Molten provides the official balls, while Sportsradar livestreams the PFL matches on pfltv.ph.
9. The PFL envisions a lower or second division, since the PFF, according to the PFL tournament regulations handbook, “embraces the concept of promotion and relegation in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.”
10. After holding its “home” games elsewhere, JPV Marikina finally played in a stadium they can truly call home, the Marikina Sports Complex, where they edged legends Global Cebu FC 2-1 (which ironically now doesn’t have a home stadium). Formerly known as the Manila All-Japan Football Club, JPV stands for Japan Philippines Voltes, named after the anime show Voltes V.
11. In its player roster, a PFL club must have at least three foreign players, but no more than four. The PFL also requires each club to include at least three Filipino youth players in its roster.
12. The Azkals — current squad members and recent call ups to the men’s national team — are mostly PFL players. This reinforces the importance of a stable, competitive Philippine Football League where national team players can ply their trade and hone their skills on a regular basis.