Kicking it virtually

Originally published by Business Mirror

THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Chooks-to-Go 3×3 Pilipinas weren’t the only successful bubble leagues last year. The Philippines Football League (PFL) had its own successful bubble despite infections on several players at the start of the shortened season.

Last Saturday, I was invited to attend the PFL’s virtual kickoff to start the 2021 season. Five representatives from the six teams were present. There was no representative from the Azkals Development Team (ADT).

On hand were team owners Eric Gottschalk of 2020 PFL champion United City Football Club (UCFC), Anton del Rosario of Maharlika FC and Kaya FC Media Officer Jing Jamlang, who represented the club until General Manager Paul Tolentino came onboard. Manager (head coach) Ernie Nierras of Stallion Laguna FC and Karl Tan, a board member of Mendiola FC, were also there.

Tolentino’s father Noel passed away the day before so webinar moderator Cedelf Tupas asked everyone to offer a minute of silence to pay their respects to a person whom, Anton del Rosario said “Philippine football lost a good man in Noel Tolentino.”

Many topics and subjects were covered from updates from each of the teams to training and preparation for the season to offseason acquisitions.

UCFC signed up Anthony Pinthus as their No. 1 goalkeeper. There were reports that Pinthus will start for the national team replacing Neil Etheridge once the season resumes.

Vaccines and inoculating players were discussed. Gottschalk and Tolentino will not force players to take the vaccine but they will replace players who don’t want to get vaccinated with players who want to. Tan, del Rosario and Nierras thought that it is something that needs to be discussed. Some of the vaccines reportedly have side effects and any decision made has to be guided by science, medicine and government regulators.

Gottschalk said that players may not be allowed to sign a contract unless they get vaccinated first. My question was “do the players pay for the vaccine? Do the teams have the resources to subsidize the vaccination of players? Could the league or the PFL pay for at least part of the vaccination?”

The most interesting part of the webinar was the discussion of a “joint tryout” amount the six teams. The purpose of the joint tryout is to widen the net cast in search of more talent especially in the countryside.

Talent identification is another reason for the joint tryout but what if two teams want the same player? Anton del Rosario opined that this may lead to an eventual draft system for the league.

The PFL could do a football combine for players who want to get drafted into the league.

Will a joint tryout bring parity to the PFL? We’ll see.

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