Originally published by Manila Standard Online
The Philippines Football League will open its first tournament of the season with the 2022 Copa Paulino Alcantara this coming March 14 at the PFF National Training Center at the San Lazaro Leisure and Business Park in Carmona, Cavite.
At least seven teams are competing in the domestic league, including defending Copa champions Kaya FC Iloilo.
Crowding the Kaya are United City FC, Stallion Laguna FC, Dynamic Herb Cebu FC, Maharlika FC, Mendiola FC 1991 andthe Azkals Development Team or ADT.
A very excited and happy PFL Commissioner Coco Torre says the reboot of the the domestic league is the product of hard work and unrelenting drive by all concerned – from the clubs, owners, coaches, officials, fans and the Philippine Football Federation – to sustain the momentum after the Malditas made it to the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“We are very excited to kickstart football with seven participating clubs which have been working hard during the off-season to provide quality matches for fans to enjoy,” Kume Torre said.
Torre is also looking forward to make the games more accessible to fans, and with Alert Levels in the country deescalated to the less restrictive Alert Level 1, things are opening up for more sporting activities in the country. Torre is not keen of letting this opportunity to bring football closer to fans pass by.
“We hope the fans can tune in to the cup matches through our online platforms. We are also finalizing protocols for them to enjoy games live in the venue,” he explained.
Due to strict protocols last November, the teams played before an empty venue, but with COVID cases dropping and the threat of the Omicron variant easing, Torre is hoping for a different ending in this year’s Copa Alcantara.
“The past two years of pandemic have been tough but as the same time, we saw the resilience of clubs and how they set aside rivalries and work together off the pitch just to keep pushing football to greater heights,” Torre added.
But aside from the return of the domestic league, Torre is thankful that more people – players and fans alike – will get to go out from their homes while still observing health protocols to enjoy the game.
Torre added the postponement of the tournament’s fixtures on March 14 and May 2 and 9 are due to AFC matches and Cebu’s request as the province is still rebuilding from the devastation brought about by Typhoon Odette.
“We hope that this rebirth of football, both professional and recreational, can spread more awareness and encourage more people to watch and play the beautiful game,” Torre said.
Completing this week’s good vibes is the wonderful news that Malditas’ head coach Alen Stajcic and his staff have signed their contracts that will extend after the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia next year.
Stajcic, who guided the Malditas’ historic run to the World Cup, is happy to continue his mission in bringing the women’s national football team to unfamiliar but welcome heights.
“I’m delightful to continue our journey with the Philippines Women’s National Team through to the World Cup,” Stajcic said in a social media post. “The Asian Cup performances were remarkable and phenomena, but to share it with a group of staff and players that exemplified humility, gratitude and passion for the (Philippines) shirt is what really made it special. I’m extremely excited to help lead the team in the next chapter as we head for the pinnacle of our sport,” he added.
Joining Stajic on the sidelines are assistant coach Nahuel Arrarte and strength and conditioning coach Luca Tonetti.
This makes up for the gallant but losing effort shown by Kaya Iloilo FC when took Sydney FC in Australia for a berth in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
The Sky Blues dropped five goals against the Pinoy side to deny them a second consecutive appearance in the biggest club competition in the continent.
Despite the loss, the future looks bright for Kaya and the national team with the country’s next football superstars—Oskari Kekkonen, Mar Diano, Sandro Reyes and Jarvey Gayoso.
On a side note, if there is one good thing that this pandemic did to local football, it is the fact that it gave many Azkals players the opportunity to take their skills and playing boots outside the country. In the Thai League 1 alone, several Azkals are making a name for themselves while being exposed to a different play of football in a foreign and culturally-diversed country, and yet they excelled.
Unlike some sport we truly love, where the Kings won’t allow their players to play elsewhere and improve their game playing against bigger, better and faster teams.
Get off your high horses, Sirs. We already have so many pretentious, myopic and parochial mindsets in our midst.
And we are not talking about this ongoing circus yet.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps.