United Football League sides Kaya FC and Ceres-La Salle FC recently made history just early this year after turning in great performances in the 2016 AFC Cup. Both teams reached the quarterfinals stage with Ceres-La Salle missing on the semifinals berth by just a hairline.
It is a consensus inside the League that what the two clubs have achieved has raised the status of Philippine club football and, in general, Philippine football.
Or has it?
In the ongoing 2016 UFL League tournament, all member teams participate in a single-division format. Hence, it is not surprising to see score lines showing the disparity among the squads since the dissolution of the league’s Division II.Recently, Kaya FC posted a 16-1 demolition of Manila Nomads FC. The result resulted to an outrage on social media, particularly in UFL’s official Facebook page, among various “fans.” Wednesday’s action was no different as the Loyola Meralco Sparks blasted MSA Agila FC, 11-0, and Ceres-La Salle’s 10-0 routed a nine-man Forza squad, 10-0.
It is an alarming scenario according to Ceres-La Salle head coach Ali Go.
Go, instead of commenting on their victory against Forza, turned his attention to how the opposition started the game with just nine players. “Our players were prepared, but to go in here, your opponents are [just] nine players,” the Bacolod-based mentor said. “They are showing that our League… they don’t care about the League or anything like that. For me, it’s so sad.”
The mentor shared that the result of the game gave them mixed emotions, but he then went on to dwell on the sad part of the result. He furthered, “I’m beginning to think, is it worth it? We’re spending too much; then we go to the games like this. For me, I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Go also asked whether these events have reached the country’s national federation. He said, “I don’t know what the PFF is doing [about this]?”
“This is not happening in any other country. Even if you go to our neighbors here: Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, this is not happening. It’s impossible.”
He also cited Bangladesh and added, “It’s very, very dirty place, but their football is still competitive.”
With such results, Go believes that a dialogue between the league and its teams should happen. He lamented, “I have nothing good to say about this kind of scenario. Yes, we won [and] we continue on to the next game because that is our duty – to play whichever opponent,” Go continued. “Now, it’s going… It’s degrading, actually. I hope they wake up and do something about it.”
The reigning champion coach suggested that the League should consider a triple round-robin among, what he believes are, the seven competitive clubs, bringing a total of 21 matches. “We, Ceres and Global, we meet three times? Ceres and Loyola, three times? Loyola and Global, three times every season? They [the fans] will enjoy.”
Go even went further in saying that if the UFL wants more games they should do with a quadruple round robin. “Imagine, all the strong teams will fight four times. Who is more consistent will be the champion. And it’s all good games,” he added.
Go then went back to how they train and even shared that they play even more competitively against each other than the “lower-tier” teams of the League. He said, “to be honest, you go to our training, [and] everyone is killing everyone because it’s so tight.”
“So sayang. You play at a high level, the next game you play very low, it’s hard to adjust for the players.”
The Ceres-La Salle mentor shared how important playing high quality games day in and day out is to how they perform in the bigger stages like the AFC-level competitions.
Citing AFC Cup clubs as example, he was able to stress this point. He said, “Imagine those teams. They’re prepared because they play every game, in and out, high quality. If we are like that here, six teams, every time, hard games? If we play in the AFC, we’ll play better.”
Go, however, submits to this reality. Nevertheless, the multi-titled mentor is optimistic that what they have been doing to raise the level of Philippine club football will not be put to waste.
“Hopefully, this will change soon.”