One of the recurring themes in the participation of Kaya-Iloilo and United City in the 2021 AFC Champions League is certain players who have been active in Philippine football for so long finally having the chance to compete in the continent’s biggest club competition.
One such player is Kaya goalkeeper Louie Casas, despite experiencing three bad losses against Thailand’s BG Pathum United, Vietnam’s Viettel, and South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, is becoming a standout performer. It’s been quite a journey for the 35-year-old, who played at the collegiate level for San Beda in the NCAA.
“I think dreams do come true,” said the Cebu native. “I’m thankful for the Kaya management and my teammates. We worked hard for it and the fruit of labor is we won against Shanghai Port. Finally, we’re here in the Champions League.
“Everyone was dreaming of it. It’s been 15 years of my career and finally, I’m here in the Champions League. The experience is amazing. It’s very different from the tournaments I played in.”
Throughout his career, the veteran stopper has competed in the Singapore Cup, AFC Cup, United Football League, 2004 Tiger Cup, the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, and the Philippines Football League.
Despite playing in such tournaments, he believes that the AFC Champions League is at a league of its own.
“Nakikita ko na kakaiba talaga yung mga players especially (from) the AFC Cup and any tournaments. Like in AFC Cup or PFL, if you commit any mistakes, sometimes you can bounce back in the game,” said the 5-foot-7 ½ goalkeeper.
“But here if you commit mistakes, they are going to punish you right away. And especially in the PFL or the AFC Cup, if they score, they will settle down, but here if they score once, they are hungry for more.”
Casas stated that the clubs he and his teammates are facing employ talented imports and local players who are mainstays in their respective national teams.
While he has had good individual performances against these opponents, he insists that everything will always be a collective effort.
“I know I cannot do it alone but also with the team, the coaching staff, and everyone who’s in the team. Everyone is contributing but I think the three games were very painful losses,” admitted the former Ceres-Negros player.
“The good thing here is there’s nothing to lose but you will learn and you will earn the things you need to pick up the pieces and go again because every two days, there’s a game so all you need to do is be positive, collect all those good things in the game and apply them in the next upcoming games also.”
Halfway through Kaya’s group stage campaign, its current standing makes for grim reading. After three matches played in Group F, the LBC backed side has yet to register a point and has a goal difference of minus-11.
However, hope springs eternal with three games left. Each player will be eager to make the most of the chance to compete with some of Asian football’s best and toughest players.
“Everyone is prepared to play. The good thing also with the management is everyone is given a chance to play so lahat kami, everyone from the team, not only the first 11, the first 18, but anyone can play every game because we’re entitled to play six games,” said Casas.
“For me, I’m going to continue to give my best every time they need me so I’m going to give my best and my teammates also.”