Amidst the difficulties brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Philippines Football League sponsored by Qatar Airways was forced to make adjustments in its 2021 calendar.
The league announced that the Copa Paulino Alcantara, which was last played in 2019, has been cancelled and the start of the new campaign is postponed to a later date.
The league tournament, on the other hand, has marked July 17 as its kick-off date. The PFL had earlier said that it is currently not looking at a bubble format for this season as back in 2020, all games were played at the PFF Training Center in Carmona, Cavite while all players, team staff, and league officials stayed in Seda Hotel in Nuvali, Laguna.
“The (Copa Paulino Alcantara) will not push through this year because of the current situation,” said Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta, Jr.
“We decided that we will proceed with the league by July 17 when we have the vaccines rolled out already.”
The new date was decided upon with many factors in mind including the June FIFA international window and the 2021 AFC Champions League fixtures of United City and Kaya-Iloilo.
What this does is it gives the teams a definite date where they can decide on their preparations forward.
“We understand the situation the clubs are facing during these challenging times,” stated PFF General Secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes.
“With a scheduled kickoff date of July 17, the clubs will be able to plan accordingly for another exciting PFL season.”
Despite the sudden change of plans, officials from the PFF and the PFL are still working to help not just the resumption but ensure the growth of the country’s primary football competition.
After a successful bubble tournament last year, it is imperative that things will only go upwards from there.
“Last year, clubs were only able to play five matches in the bubble season,” said PFL Commissioner Coco Torre. “With the vaccine set to roll out this year, we look forward to giving the clubs more competitive matches to keep the players physically fit, which will benefit our clubs participating at the domestic level, international competitions, and our national team.”
“The players are welcome to be vaccinated as it is a protection for them,” added Araneta.
“We’re giving them a choice as PFF will be spending for the vaccines. I’m confident that they will accept these vaccines.”
Besides United City and Kaya, member teams include Maharlika-Manila, Stallion-Laguna, and Mendiola ’91. The Azkals DT are a guest team.
Looking to join the league this season are Loyola and Laos.