Amidst ongoing preparations for its postponed 2021 AFC Champions League preliminary round match against Brisbane Roar later in the year, Kaya-Iloilo disclosed that it has signed two of the country’s top local talents to beef up its lineup.
Fitch Arboleda and Jhan Jhan Melliza, who both previously played under Ernie Nierras in Stallion Laguna, have been confirmed to have signed with the LBC-backed squad.
“Gusto ko i-challenge pa yung sarili ko,” said Arboleda. “Gusto ko pang mag-grow. Gusto ko magkaroon ng experience sa ibang coaches… Madami pa akong gustong matutunan as a player, as a pro.
“Siyempre, nakikita ko yung mga former teammates ko na naglalaro sa AFC Champions League, siyempre gusto ko din ma-experience yun hopefully sa ibang bansa din. Binibigay ko all out talaga basta makatulong ako sa team, okay ako dun.”
As a player who gained experience with University of the East in the UAAP, the Under-19, Under-21, Under-23, and senior national teams; and Stallion, Arboleda is expected to make an immediate impact for Kaya in midfield.
On the other hand, his long-time teammate, Melliza has some immediate history with their new team.
It was Melliza who scored the goal for Stallion that held Kaya to a 1-1 draw when both squads faced each other in the 2020 PFL bubble tournament last year. The 28-year-old finished from close range to commence another failed title challenge for the historic club.
However, that is all in the past now as he is raring to prove himself to his new teammates.
“Ang goal ko is matulungan ang Kaya at maibigay ang championship sa kanya,” said the former FEU Tamaraw. “Ipu-push ko talaga sarili ko para makuha yung kampeonato tapos sa AFC naman, basta bigay ko lang yung best ko. Ipakita ko sa kanila na spot ko talaga ito.
“Iingatan ko talaga ito na hindi mawala sa akin kasi laking opportunity na para sa akin ito eh. Hindi ko na papakawalan ito… Pu-push ko pa sarili ko for the future.”
The signings of Arboleda and Melliza are a welcome development and it can be assumed that there will be more signings to come to offset the exits of defenders Jalsor Soriano and Chy Villaseñor, FEU alumnus Mike Menzi, and forward Emmanuel Osei.