Ace Bright: Meet the man behind Philippines' most successful football club

Patrick Ace Bright has risen through the ranks of club football management in the Philippines. Currently the general manager of Philippines Football League (PFL) powerhouse United City Football Club, Ace has left an indelible imprint in local club football in just a few years into his tenure.

A graduate of BA Film from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Ace started out as a TV segment producer at ABS-CBN before making his way into the sports world working for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). "I came from a totally different background but it didn’t take long for me to love and appreciate the sport," said Ace, who produced PBA's first lifestyle show.

After spending his early years in the TV& Film industry, Ace had built a reputation that caught the attention of the local football governing body, and offered him the opportunity to be the editor in chief of its monthly publication. But it wasn't long before he found himself working as the national team coordinator under coach Des Bulpin in 2009. In his early years also in football, he decided to seek for other opportunities and venture into the sports industry, "I created a Sports Management & Marketing Company together with a partner and we managed a lot of outstanding athletes in every field of sport then," he recalls.

Despite the success in his young career, he still has along way to go, but clearly Ace has become a reference for aspiring GM dreaming to have a relevant role in Philippine club football.

In this interview, Ace Bright talked about his remarkable success in recent years, as well as the growth of club football in the country.

KICK OFF PH: How did you get started into the football scene? What inspired you to make the leap from TV and film industry into the sports world especially football taking into account that the Philippines isn’t a football nation?

Ace Bright: You know it’s funny because before I started working for the PFF back in 2009 the only football players I knew and admired were David Beckham and Alexandre Pato. I was in Dubai the time David Beckham was in AC Milan and they had a training camp there. I had the chance to watch their training camp as I got curious by the immense popularity of the sport. I felt frustrated i couldn't even take a photo with them. Few months later I found myself working for the PFF as the editor of its monthly publication. Years later i got to meet Beckham and Pato up close in person (with a photo, yes!) . Dreams do come true, yes!

KOPH: What have you learned most in your transition from being an editor in chief of PFF’s newspaper to becoming an Azkals coordinator?

AB: Probably let’s say not learned but I discovered that football in the country back then was more challenging than I thought. When I started working for the Azkals we literally had to start from scratch. Was so hard for us just to even find a proper training venue. Everything was out of place. Boss Dan initiated the change and the rest is history.

KOPH: You've been around the game for quite some time, but how did the opportunity with Ceres -Negros FC come about?

AB: I just used to watch Ceres trainings before and would help them from time to time regarding some things so Ali Go, the sports director then who is also a good friend of mine, asked me to join the team as its marketing manager. I have always wanted to work on the club level and use my experience from the national team.

KOPH: How would you best describe your role as a general manager (GM)? Can you tell us a little bit about your role and your responsibilities as a club GM?

AB: As a GM, you do all sorts of things as you oversee everything about the club. I’m a hands on GM so I do a little bit of work in all sorts and department. Yes I do a kit man’s job too when needed especially when we are playing outside the country and we are running short on manpower. Main role of a GM is to keep everything in order for the club on its day to day operations. You are the link between the club and its owner. I also work closely with the coaches and the owner regarding scouting and recruitment of players.

KOPH: Talking about scouting, scouting players for a club is a challenging task, can you tell us something interesting about that and what aspects do you keep in mind while scouting a player?

AB: When scouting players you got to find the balance between skills and attitude. Talent and skills are absolutely important but character speaks volume as well.

KOPH: In just a few years after founding the club, it has dominated the domestic league and became a regional powerhouse. What was the key to the success of the club?

AB: Years and years of hard work. Money alone won’t get you there. Ceres has left behind a lasting legacy in Southeast Asian football because of the owner’s dedication and unparalleled love for the sport.

KOPH: What is the biggest crisis situation you have ever faced as a club manager? And how did you overcome it?

AB: Perhaps it’s when Ceres folded last year. The task of doing the transition from Ceres to United City Football Club (UCFC) . So many thoughts running through your mind. The challenge of keeping everyone together. You cannot just give up because there are jobs and people on the line. You have to be mentally tough.

KOPH: What would you say were your most impressive professional achievements?

AB: While I may have a collection of medals and accolades that speak of the club’s success through the years, my greatest achievement will always be the relationships I forged along the way. Football is so much greater when you get to find your second family within the sport. There are many other wonderful things you will get to discover when you get to love what you do. Football is just beyond that.

KOPH: Despite the success of the club in recent years, the club is still hungry for more– can you explain why this hunger doesn't stop?

AB: I guess the passion and the discipline we adapted from Ceres are very imminent. The club name and crest have changed but the hunger for victory will always be there. It is also because the new owners have a great vision for UCFC and they intend to create new milestones for the club and Philippine football in general.

KOPH: Fans are one of the most important part of a football club, how do you manage to engage with the fans and what steps did you take to expand the fan base of the club?

AB: The fans are everything. With UCFC now we try to engage with the fans as much as possible and the management is always thinking of ways how to keep the fans involved specially at this time when they cannot go and watch the live games in person yet.

KOPH: The club has been representing the Philippines in international club competitions in recent years, this year, United City will make their historic debut in the AFC Champions League, competing against the best teams in Asia, how does it feel to represent the country on the big stage?

AB: This is the culmination of the many years of hard work by the football enthusiasts and stakeholders in the country and it just feels great that we are finally here on the bigger stage. To be a part of this feat is simply astonishing and unimaginable.

KOPH: Finally, what do you think is the way forward for Philippine club football?

AB: I believe we are on the right track at this point in time. All clubs coming together and supporting each other is surely one way of reaching greater heights. Divisiveness has no place in football. I hope more people in the business side will get to notice the potential of football in the industry.

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