Originally published by Spin.ph
DESPITE the COVID-19 pandemic, football was alive and kicking in the Philippines in 2020. Here are some of the highlights of the year for the sport in the country and its players.
PFL holds bubble
After postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines Football League (PFL) got the green light from the Games and Amusements Board to hold its 2020 season under a bubble set-up. Matches were held at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite, while players were billeted at Seda Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Six clubs played in the bubble season including newcomers United City FC and Maharlika FC, and the Azkals Development Team.
United City wins PFL bubble
In an auspicious first year for the club, United City FC captured the 2020 PFL league crown after topping the shortened season in the bubble. Led by team captain Stephan Schrock, UCFC wound up with 12 points at the end of five matches with 12 points and a 4-0-1 win-draw-loss record. UCFC also became the first Philippine club to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage.
Filipino players abroad
Neil Etheridge led a host of Filipinos who campaigned abroad in 2020 after the Azkals goalkeeper signed with Birmingham City FC, which plays in the second-tier English Football League Championship. Later in the year, a host of Filipinos led by Azkals Development Team star Jarvey Gayoso made a move to Thailand to pursue a professional football career.
The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) came down hard on Global FC, blacklisting the club for non-payment of salaries to its players and staff reportedly owing a total of nearly P6 million. Fifa has also ordered Global FC to fulfill its obligations.
Ceres-Negros FC closes shop
It was an end of an era for one of the most successful clubs in Southeast Asia as Ceres-Negros FC ceased operations last July. Winners of three Philippines Football League crowns and a Copa Paulino Alcantara trophy, the Busmen, also a regular in AFC Cup competitions, disbanded owing to the financial crunch brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The club would soon be reincarnated as United City FC following a transfer of ownership.