There is a saying that goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
And it is perhaps quite apt to describe United City after it emerged as champions of the 2020 PFL Season sponsored by Qatar Airways.
Frank Muescan’s men won the championship with one fixture left in this compressed tournament.
Their impressive displays have led to four straight wins, 24 goals scored and only one goal conceded. They then sealed the trophy thanks to a 7-1 win over Stallion Laguna last Friday, which featured a hat-trick from Spanish forward Bienvenido Maranon.
“Of course, we are so happy to win the fourth league title in a row. I’m very, very happy. I’m proud of this team because it’s not easy after we changed management, but we are lucky this new management is also very good. We are happy to show what we can do. We showed this years ago with Ceres, so that we had the best team in the Philippines. And today we saw it again,” said the 34-year-old, who is seeking naturalization.
“We just want to play football. We have to create chances and we want to score as many goals as possible.”
To say it has been crazy past few months for United City is an understatement.
The club — then known as the legendary Ceres-Negros — was sold by its benefactor, businessman Leo Rey Yanson, to MMC Sportz Asia last July amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new ownership, coach Risto Vidakovic did not join the rebuilding project.
Still, Maranon and his teammates simply carried on as if all these things never happened.
“We are so happy with the new management after what happened with our former president. They bought the team… We have to accept everything they did for us… We are so happy that we found a new management… For me, everything is the same. Most of the players are the same. We know each other, we know how to play,” said the 5-foot-8 striker.
“We are happy with our coach since he is here with us. Also, we have to appreciate Eric Gottschalk… He gave us the chance to play football again, to give us our salaries so we have to appreciate him. We showed him what we can do hope for the next season, [that] most of the players can continue and we can enjoy the AFC Champions League.”
As of this writing, the Asian Football Confederation has not found a resolution regarding qualification to the continent’s most prestigious club competition in 2021.
While a statement was released in October 2019 about the expansion of the tournament, there may be adjustments because of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.
Nevertheless, if the Philippines receives a slot in the tourney, then United City will be the rightful recipient.
“I think we deserve to play in the AFC Champions League. We are so happy that everything is improving with this COVID-19. Hopefully, we can play normally and the next season, we can come back and play in the AFC Champions League,” said the former Cadiz player.
“Years ago, we couldn’t play (in the group stage) because we get eliminated every single time in China (against Tianjin Quanjian in 2018), in Japan (against FC Tokyo in 2020), in our home in Bacolod (against Yangon United in 2019)… But now we are lucky to play in the AFC Champions League (group stages). We have to spend that chance… I think we deserve to play in the AFC Champions League.”
The past few months have been full of uncertainty for Maranon. Ultimately, this new cycle has already started the best way thanks to another championship.
After that, though, is the hope of conquering new horizons.