CARMONA, CAVITE — Surrounded by familiar and talented faces, United City skipper Stephan Schrock feels confident that his club will sustain the winning legacy of Ceres-Negros FC when the Philippines Football League unfolds on Sunday at the PFF national training center pitch.
“I think my team is pretty good and well prepared. Not surprisingly, my teammates are very, very eager to win another title,” said Schrock, who is also the Azkals skipper.
Since 2017, with businessman-sportsman Leo Rey Yanson as the team owner, the Bacolod-based Busmen have ruled the PFL thrice in a row. They saw their dominance capped in 2019 with a golden double — the league championship plus the Copa Paulino Alcantara Cup.
It was a fitting swan song for Ceres-Negros FC, which relinquished its team ownership and management to a new group of overseas investors early this year. It later took on the new name of United City FC.
A total of 16 members — led by Schrock and AFC Cup record goalscorer Bienve Marañon — are back to carry the colors of the renamed squad. United City opens its campaign at 8:30 p.m. against Maharlika Manila on Sunday.
Schrock and his teammates entered the PFL bubble last Thursday in Seda Nuvali in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
“All happy, healthy, and fit. It was hard for them to be mentally fresh but the boys did not lose their motivation and discipline during the (COVID-19) lockdown,” said Schrock referring to his teammates.
Schrock said that he felt fortunate to keep himself in tip top shape during his six-month stay in Germany “since restrictions there were down to none in football for the last three months.”
He also credited the officials PFF, PFL, especially PFL commissioner Coco Torre, “in making us winners already in having this tournament. Our hats off to the PFF, the league, and commissioner for working towards the fulfillment of this event.
“This (competition)is lighting up local football on, so credit to the PFF, PFL, and the people behind it,” he said.
With UCFC’s crack core intact, Schrock acknowledged that he and his teammates “have the biggest targets on our backs.” Still, he feels no pressure from the other contending clubs such as Stallion-Laguna and Kaya-Iloilo.
“Generally. I have blinkers left and right. I just focus on the trophy, on my team, on my preparations. And we will (aim to) advance and win the league as in the last three years.”