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PFL: What We Know So Far

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Philippine club football is set to reach greater heights this year. Global FC, by virtue of winning the UFL League and the Cup last season, are set to be the first Philippine club to participate in the AFC Champions League preliminary stage while Ceres-Negros FC gained a direct berth into the AFC Cup group stage.

Aside from participation in AFC club competitions, the Philippine Football Federation is set to launch the much awaited Philippines Football League by April of this year. The following is what we currently know about the League at the moment.

1. It will be a professional League

Announced last September 2016, the PFL will be a professional, national league where clubs play against each other in a home-and-away league format.

“The league we will form is a professional league, with professional club and professional players,” said Atty. Edwin Gastanes last September.

Pursuant to AFC’s regulations, Gastanes stressed that a minimum of six clubs is required to be recognized as a national league. The PFF initially pegged the deadline on December 31, 2016 but has since been extended it to accommodate other teams interested to join.

“We can’t have a national league, professional league if we don’t have at least six teams,” added Gastanes.

The PFL being a “professional” league also means that all players and employees shall be able to rely on football as a living — no more part-time players. Additionally, all club and player contracts and other monetary deals will be better structured and monitored.

2. Ten teams have applied for the League

According to a case study by AC Nielsen in 2015, 14 cities/provinces were identified as possible home bases for clubs: Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Marikina, Pampanga, Sta. Maria and Bocaue, Bulacan, Laguna, Bacolod, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga.

As of January 20, 2017, 10 teams have submitted their license applications to the PFF. Clubs are required to meet several criteria to get a license. The criteria, which is based on AFC’s stringent Club Licensing Regulations are the following: sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal, financial, and club identity.

Global, Ceres, Loyola, Kaya, and Stallion were the first five teams to submit their applications to the PFF and have already chosen home cities or provinces. Global, renamed Global Queen City FC, will play their games in Cebu. Ceres-Negros FC is set to use the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod for their home games as well as their AFC Cup matches. Kaya-Makati have recently announced that the University of Makati will be their home field. Stallion Laguna tapped the Binan Football Stadium in Laguna last year and have been using the facilities ever since. Loyola is set to use the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig City.

By the end of 2016, PFF President Mariano Araneta said that 90% of the teams had already confirmed their participation in the PFL. The PFF President announced then that JP Voltes FC had submitted their application for the PFL. Green Archers United became the seventh team on board after announcing on social media that they had sent in their application before the Christmas break.

Last week, the number of applicant clubs reached ten. TV5’s Erel Cabatbat reported that three more clubs had expressed their intention to join the PFL. According to Cabatbat’s report, teams from Davao, Ilocos Sur, and an unnamed tenth team “have expressed their intentions in joining the league.” Cabatbat also quoted Gastanes saying that the PFF will formally finalize the participating teams by February 2017.

3. There will be a League and possibly a Cup competition

During the September press conference, the PFF also announced that the tournament format of the PFL will be a modified home-and-away league type. It will follow the format similar to Australia’s Hyundai A-League where teams play in a home-and-away double round robin league followed by a play-off championship series.

Gastanes also said in September’s press meet, that a national cup competition is also in the works to complement the league. An incentive to the clubs joining the PFL is that the champions of the League can be nominated to play in next year’s AFC Champions League or AFC Cup. Previously the champions of the UFL League and UFL Cup gained spots in AFC’s club competitions.

However, should a club become eligible to play in AFC’s club competitions, they should also adhere to AFC’s rules and regulations. One such requirement for a club to participate in the AFC Champions League, for example, is that they must play a minimum of 27 matches and that the duration of the national top division should run for at least eight months.

The final season of the UFL saw the champion team, Global, play a total of 27 matches (19 League matches and 8 UFL Cup matches) in a span of nine months to meet one of the criteria to play in the AFC Champions League.

With only a few months left before the launch of the League, expect the PFF and the clubs to unveil more information as the Philippine football community braces for its first professional, national football league. — CAL


1. Philippine Football Federation. (2016). Club Licensing Regulations for Philippines Football League. Retrieved from http://pff.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PFL-Club-Licesing-2016.pdf
2. Cabatbat, Erel. (2017, January 9). 9 teams–PFF secretary general Atty. Ed Gastanes reveals at least nine teams have signified their intentions to join the Philippines Football League this coming March. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BPB7dbNgTig/
3. Cabatbat, Erel. (2017, January 17). 10th team–Philippine Football Federation secretary-general Atty. Edwin Gastanes says they have already relayed all the requirements needed to a party that expressed its intention in joining the Philippines Football League. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BPWUlrAgLta/
4. Asian Football Confederation. (2016). Entry Manual – AFC Club Competitions 2017-2020. Retrieved from the-afc.com/uploads/afc/files/entry_manual_entry_manual_for_afc_club_competitions_2017-2020_09112016.pdf

JP Voltes Upsets Ceres on the Last Day of the UFL Season

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JP Voltes FC ended the 2016 United Football League season with a surprise 1-0 win over nine-men Ceres-La Salle FC last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Already assured of second place and an AFC Cup play-off berth due to a vastly superior goal difference, Ceres went to the game quite relaxed knowing that they had already secured the position after the Loyola Meralco Sparks drew Stallion last night.

Alen Angeles’ 41st minute goal sealed the deal for JP Voltes against a Ceres side that saw Stephan Schrock and Manny Ott finish their season with sending offs. JP Voltes goalkeeper Nelson Gasic capped off an impressive season as he went home with the best goalkeeper plum while Global FC defender Masaki Yanagawa took the best defender award.

“I didn’t expect to get this award,” said Gasic, who also played for the Lyceum in the NCAA. “Even if we finished in fourth place, our coach told to do our best because it’s not just for us but for our suppoters as well.

Angeles came close for JP Voltes in the 15th minute. The winger was left free on the edge of the box, but he sent his shot inches wide of the far post.

The Bacolod side lost Schrock near the 30th minute mark after a hard foul on Camelo Tacusalme. The midfielder was given a straight red card for the challenge.

JP Voltes went ahead four minutes before half-time. Takumi Uesato’s shot was tipped away by Louie Casas but Angeles continued his run to slot the rebound home. JP Voltes led at the half, 1-0.

Ceres applied pressure in the second half but were unable to penetrate past the solid JP Voltes defense. Bienvenido Maranon had a chance from the free kick but Gasic made an outstretched save to keep it out. The goalkeeper also loomed large in the 64th minute to tip away Orman Okuaniya’s shot after the Ceres midfielder won the ball away from Boyet Canedo.

Ceres’ already sorry night turned worse as they went down to nine men in the dying minutes of the game. Manny Ott, who came in late in as a substitute late in the second half, received his marching orders after disrespecting the fourth official.

“It was difficult to play against a good organized team,” said Risto Vidakovic after the match. “(But) The guys did a good job. We finished second and qualified for the AFC Cup.”

The final standings saw Global FC finish the season as League champions with 47 points. Ceres, JP Voltes, and Loyola round up the top four with 41 points apiece. Kaya FC, Stallion FC, and Green Archers United complete the top 7. Forza FC and Laos FC put up a fight but finished in eighth and tenth respectively. Nomads, Agila MSA, and Pasargad did not participate in the second round. — CAL

Loyola Snatches Second, Knocks Kaya Out of Contention

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The Loyola Meralco Sparks nailed an all-important 2-1 win over Kaya to move themselves up to second place and put pressure on the trailing pack last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Goals from Phil Younghusband and Joaquin Cañas put an end to Kaya’s aspirations of finishing second in a highly intense match. The match also marked the return of night games at the stadium. RMS’ lighting installation meant the matches in the past few months had to be played during daylight hours.

The Sparks are now in a good position to finish second with 40 points. JP Voltes FC, who claimed a 3-0 default win over Laos FC in the first game, also improved to 38 points, level with Ceres-La Salle FC, but behind on goal difference. The Sparks, JP Voltes, and Ceres-La Salle are still in contention for a spot in next year’s AFC Cup after Global FC claimed the League and Cup double.

“I’m just very pleased today that the boys held on and [they] deserved everything they got today,” said Sparks coach Simon McMenemy. “We put ourselves a chance at AFC Cup action. This is a horrible game to take something from. It’s always tight and to have the three points today is very very satisfying.”

Younghusband put the Sparks ahead in the 25th minute. The Sparks forward was left unmarked in the box and launched a ferocious volley from a Kouichi Belgira delivery from the left flank. The Sparks held a 1-0 lead at the break.

Canas doubled the lead from close range just eight minutes into the second half. Younghusband provided the assist with an inviting cross which allowed the defender to convert.

However, Eric Giganto brought Kaya back to life, scoring in the 57th minute to make it 2-1. Kenshiro Daniels released Jovin Bedic with the long ball, forcing goalkeeper Ace Villanueva to come off his line. Bedic’s shot hit the post but Giganto was there for the follow up into an empty net.

The last 30 minutes saw the Sparks’ rely on their makeshift defensive line of Canas and Anto Gonzales. The rather diminutive Gonzales, who is the head coach of the University of the Philippines’ football teams, put on a man of the match performance on defense and kept Robert Lopez-Mendy at bay the whole game.

The same can also be said for Villanueva. The goalkeeper came on as a last minute replacement for Guilherme Hasegawa. The Brazilian goalkeeper picked up an injury during the warmup. The UP standout rewarded his side with two match-winning saves late in the match to deny Kaya the equalizer. It is interesting to note that Villanueva played his whole college career coached by Gonzales and has one more year to play in the UAAP.

“What Anto lacks in physicality, he makes up for it in the knowledge and know how. He knows what he’s doing even if he’s not playing in that position and he just proved it today. For a guy in his 30s to put a performance like that was phenomenal,” said McMenemy after the match. “(Ace) didn’t expect to start and for him to come in and pull in two saves, he had a very solid game.”

Today, Green Archers United FC and Stallion FC square off in the first game at 5:00 PM. The match between the newly-crowned League champions Global FC and dethroned champions Ceres-La Salle follows at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available at the gate. — CAL

AFC Cup Spot on the Line as UFL Returns to Evening Kickoff

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With Global FC already crowned champions of the United Football League, the race for second place intensifies tonight as the League makes a return to evening kick off times at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

As it stands, four teams have a realistic chance of finishing in second place and winning a spot into next year’s AFC Cup. Three of those teams, namely JP Voltes FC, Kaya FC, Loyola Meralco Sparks, will have the chance to improve their standings tonight.

Fourth-placed JP Voltes look like they have an easier route ahead of them as they face bottom table Laos FC in the first game at 5:00 PM. The newly-promoted side took the League by storm by posting a number of impressive results including a 2-0 streak-ending upset over champions Global FC.

JP Voltes ran riot over Laos in a 4-0 win in the first round with Takashi Odawara netting a brace while Alen Angeles and Takumi Uesato also scoring.

The second game pits bitter rivals Kaya FC and Loyola Meralco Sparks FC in the 7:30 PM kick off. The Sparks are currently in third place with 37 points. Kaya, on the other hand, are in fifth with 34 points and are coming off a 6-0 blowout win over Green Archers United.

Kaya came away with a 1-0 win in their first round meeting last July. Robert Lopez-Mendy’s eighth minute strike was enough for Kaya as the Sparks failed to convert their chances.

The LBC-backed squad is expected to have a complete squad for the clash. The Sparks, however, is hoping for skipper James Younghusband’s fitness. The winger picked up an injury last Monday as the Philippines bowed to DPR Korea in a 1-3 defeat.

A win for any of the three teams playing tonight will increase their chances of getting a somewhat firmer hold of second place.

Tickets are available at the gate. — CAL

JP Voltes Ends Global’s Unbeaten Run, Opens Up UFL Title Race

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Newcomers JP Voltes FC claimed a remarkable win 2-0 over League leaders Global FC to crack the title race open last Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Former Global defender Masaki Yanagawa and Takashi Odawara scored in either half as JP Voltes ended Global’s perfect record in the competition.

It was a forgettable day for Global. With a chance to pull away from their title rivals, the league leaders stumbled in perhaps the most crucial part of the season and had to finish the match with ten men after skipper Misagh Bahadoran was sent off. Goalkeeper Patrick Deyto was a casualty in the match after picking up an injury early in the second half. The leaders are still six points clear of JP Voltes in the standings, but the Loyola Meralco Sparks and Ceres-La Salle will try to add to the pressure on Saturday.

Global were knocking on the door from the get go. Bahadoran had a chance in the 17th minute but the shot was inches over the top corner. The Global number 9 had another chance with a 33rd minute header but that went wide.

The missed chances from Global proved costly as Yanagawa opened the scoring in the 38th minute. The defender smashed in the header from a Yu Hoshide corner kick to give JP Voltes a 1-0 lead at the half.

Concerns mounted for Global after Deyto had to be replaced in the 52nd minute. The goalkeeper went off his line to snatch the ball away from Takumi Uesato. Unfortunately, Deyto collided with the Japanese forward and was unable to carry on. Nick O’Donnell replaced Deyto between the posts.

Things turned from bad to worse for John Burridge’s side in the 68th minute. Bahadoran was given a straight red card for a harsh foul on JP Voltes stopper Nelson Gasic in the box.

JP Voltes ensured the result was beyond doubt in the second minute of added time when Hoshide released Uesato on the flank. The forward then teed up Odawara in the middle allowing the midfielder to chip the ball over O’Donnell and in to the top corner.

Playing coach Yu Hoshide was satisfied with the win especially as they considered themselves the underdogs heading to the match.

“Every single game is very important,” said Hoshide. “Even if we beat the top teams (in the League), we still see ourselves as the challengers.”

Wednesday’s first match between Stallion FC and Forza FC did not push through. Stallion was handed a 3-0 default win after Forza were unable to field enough players for the match.

Meanwhile, Loyola and Ceres collide on Saturday in a potential six-pointer fixture at 4:00 PM. Kaya FC and Laos FC meet in the 1:30 PM kickoff. Both games will be at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Global Meets JP Voltes in Crucial League Tie

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United Football League pacesetters Global FC look to place a hand on the League title when they face JP Voltes FC today at 4:00 PM at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Global are coming off a 3-1 win over Green Archers United FC and moved seven points clear of Loyola Meralco Sparks in the standings with just four games left in the season. Hikaru Minegishi, Arthur Kouassi, and Dennis Villanueva were on target for the leaders in that win.

A win for Global today will see them on the cusp of a third league title which they won in 2012 and 2014. However, newly minted Global coach John Burridge is not resting on the team’s laurels for the JP Voltes match. Fourth-placed JP Voltes suffered a heartbreak last Sunday when they conceded twice in the second half in a 2-3 loss to the Sparks.

“We don’t think about anything else but JP Voltes,” said the Englishman. “If we beat them, it’s just about over. But it won’t be over until it’s over as far as we are concerned.”

JP Voltes, like Loyola and Ceres are still in the hunt for second place with an AFC Cup spot on the line.

Stallion FC and Forza FC meet in the first game at 1:30 PM. — CAL

Global Inch Closer to League Title; Loyola Solo in Second

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League leaders Global FC continued their fine form in the United Football League with a 3-1 win over Green Archers United that pulled them closer to a third league title yesterday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Hikaru Minegishi struck in the opening minute to set the tone of the match. The winger chipped the ball over both the defense and goalkeeper Henri Bandeken Fong to give Global the lead just 16 seconds into the match. Arthur Kouassi, who made his return to the squad, added a second with a 35th minute header off a Matthew Hartmann free kick.

Chieffy Caligdong pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 48th minute after Reynald Villareal was fouled in the box. However, Dennis Villanueva restored the two goal lead with a clinical effort in the 60th minute.

The win put Global at 41 points with just four games left in their campaign.

In the second match, the Loyola Meralco Sparks rallied from a 1-2 deficit at the half to defeat JP Voltes, 3-2, to claim solo second in the standings.

Tahj Minniecon put the Sparks ahead in the second minute when the Australian winger caught JP Voltes stopper Nelson Gasic off his line and sent a low shot to the far post.

JP Voltes answered back with two goals to take a 2-1 lead at the half. Allen Angeles scored in the 12th minute after a well taken JP Voltes set piece. J Baguioro added a second just nine minutes later as Guilherme Hasegawa spilled the ball after what was supposed to be a routine save.

The Sparks mounted a comeback in the second half. Joaquin Canas won a penalty in the 54th minute after Nelson Gasic brought him down as the defender made his way into the box. Phil Younghusband levelled the match with the penalty kick.

Kouichi Beligra won it for the Sparks in the 74th minute. The winger was at the right place to finish off Simon Greatwich’s defense-splitting pass.

Sparks coach Simon McMenemy was relieved after the win. The Sparks, with 34 points, are behind leaders Global by seven points heading into the business end of the season. “It’s one of those games that we had to dig it out,” said McMenemy. “(JP Voltes) tested us to the limit today.”

The win was also crucial for the Sparks as they edged out both Ceres-La Salle and JP Voltes in the fight for second. All three teams are battling for an AFC Cup slot for next year.

“It was so crucial to get points after Ceres dropped points,” continued McMenemy. “We’re in the business end of the season, one mistake either way could cost us.”

Global FC will get a chance to inch closer to the League title when they play JP Voltes on Wednesday, September 21 at 4:00 PM. Stallion FC and Forza FC meet in the first game at 1:30 PM. Both games will be at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Global, Loyola Settle for a Draw

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The battle between the first and second placed teams in the United Football League ended in a stalemate as Global FC and Loyola Meralco Sparks settled for a scoreless draw last Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The result allowed Global to extend their lead at the top of the table with 38 points. The Sparks, on the other hand, moved down to third place with 31 points.

Several national team players played in the match after their tight 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan last Tuesday night (link to story). Misagh Bahadoran, Dennis Villanueva, Paolo Bugas, Patrick Deyto, Simon Greatwich, James Younghusband, and Phil Younghusband featured in the match.

Tahj Minniecon and Anton Del Rosario were the closest for the Sparks in the first half. The Australian had two chances on goal denied by the crossbar and the defender also saw his attempt hit the bar from the set piece.

Omid Nazari could have given Global the three points in the 77th minute. The winger had the goal at his mercy after an errant backpass, but he could only send it to the side netting.

Sparks goalkeeper Guilherme Hasegawa also had a hand in the scoreless draw. The Brazilian pulled off a couple of key saves against Global.

JP Voltes FC provisionally moved to second after a 3-0 win over Forza FC in the first match. J Baguioro struck twice in the first half and Renando Mantua Jr. added a third in the second half.

Laos FC and Green Archers United FC face off at 1:30 PM on Sunday. Stallion FC and Kaya FC battle in the second game at 4:00 PM. Both games will be at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Global Let It Rain; JP Voltes Bounce Back

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Misagh Bahadoran struck four times as Global FC claimed their 11th win of the season after a 12-0 victory over Forza FC in Wednesday’s United Football League action at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Hikaru Minegishi and Omid Nazari notched a hat-trick each as Global opened up a six-point lead over second-placed Ceres-La Salle FC. Newcomer Andreas Esswein and Matthew Hartmann were also on target for the League leaders, who missed several key players due to suspension.

“The emphasis on our players was to not go in to the game thinking that it’s going to be an easy win,” said Global coach Leigh Manson. “We’re not going to take our foot off the gas in our next few games.”

Forza never stood a chance against Global despite Abu Ibrahim pulling off a remarkable save from Hartmann in the opening minutes of the match. It was a second straight loss for Forza after they yielded to Loyola Meralco Sparks last Saturday.

Takumi Uesato delivered two goals as JP Voltes FC defeated Green Archers United FC, 3-0, in the second game.

It was a proper response for a Voltes side that lost to Kaya over the weekend. JP Voltes leapfrogged the Sparks to third place with 28 points.

Green Archers defender Ronnie Aguisanda conceded an own goal in the 47th minute. Uesato, who was suspended last weekend, took control by scoring in the 53rd and 83rd minutes.

Forza take on Kaya in the first game on Saturday, August 13. Stallion FC look to end their string of lacklustre performances when they face the Sparks in the second game. Both games will be at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

Sparks, Kaya Victorious in UFL League Return

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The resumption of the 2016 United Football League season saw Loyola Meralco Sparks FC and Kaya FC start the second round on positive notes.

The Sparks began their game against Forza FC on the wrong foot but recovered in the second half to win 5-1. Forza surprised the Sparks by drawing first blood in the 23rd minute when Sparks goalkeeper Ace Villanueva went off his line and Arvin Gaspe was through on goal. The Forza winger outsmarted Villanueva with a cutback to Lionel Ndoe Mekong, who sent it into an open goal. The goal rattled the Sparks, who had already missed several chances on goal.

The second half was a different story as the match turned on its head. Forza went a man down in the 51st minute after Ndoe Mekong was sent off for a deliberate foul on Anto Gonzales. The Sparks midfielder suffered a cut in his right eye and was replaced minutes later. Nicolas Ferrer was also sent off in the 60th minute for dissent. Forza finished the game with nine men.

The sending off opened the door for the Sparks to attack. Alvaro Castiella equalized in the 53rd minute with an individual effort. Phil Younghusband scored the next two goals in the 55th and 58th minutes. Kouichi Belgira and Jinggoy Valmayor also found the target in the 73rd and 90th minute. The win lifted the Sparks to third place in the standings.

Kaya FC dealt JP Voltes’ first defeat in five games in a tight 1-0 contest in the second match. Louis Clark scored the winning goal in the 16th minute after he was brought down by Camelo Tacusalme in the box. The win propelled Kaya within striking distance of JP Voltes.

“They (JP Voltes) had a really good first half of the season and it’s important that we close that gap,” said Kaya coach Chris Greatwich. “Today we were more resolute and I am pleased by the fact that we ultimately came away with the three points.”

Laos FC and Stallion FC begin their second round campaign in Sunday’s first game at 1:30 PM. Green Archers United FC and Ceres-La Salle FC battle in the second game at 4:00 PM. Both games will be at Rizal Memorial Stadium. — CAL

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