After months of uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season of the Philippines Football League sponsored by Qatar Airways has been given the go signal much to the enjoyment of local sports fans.
In an online press conference held Wednesday afternoon hosted by Cedelf Tupas and graced by officials from the Philippine Football Federation, Games and Amusement Board, PFL, and clubs Kaya-Iloilo and Stallion Laguna, the latest edition of the country’s premier football competition was formally launched.
“First of all, I would like to thank the clubs for their full cooperation,” said PFF president Mariano Araneta.
“For the information of everyone, it was Chairman Baham Mitra (of GAB) who really helped us start the practice sessions of the clubs by bringing it up to the IATF and now we are about to start the season.”
One of the main things addressed was how the fans can keep up with the league’s matches, which shall be played at the PFF National Training Center at Carmona, Cavite. Any doubts about that topic were clarified almost immediately by the University of the Philippines alumnus.
“We also have onboard with us 1 Play Sports as our official digital content partner. 1 Play Sports also streams the Thai League 1 on Facebook so we have a bigger audience for the PFL,” explained Araneta who then stated that a contract with a potential broadcaster is being finalized.
For his part, Mitra also shared his excitement for the PFL’s upcoming season while praising the league for ensuring that higher health and safety standards are followed and not just the minimum guidelines bared by government agencies.
“As a person, I am a big, big football fan and I am cheering from the sidelines. We believe in your organization. We always believe in self-regulation and we would just be here to guide you. The organization has flourished and we think it’s going to greater heights later on,” said the 50-year-old official.
With the games set to formally start on October 25, tournament commissioner Coco Torre bared that there will be changes to the league’s format after a meeting with the participating teams.
“(The teams) were discussing key factors such as player fatigue or physical fitness given the fact that for at least seven months there was no football at all. So we decided to reduce the number of matches so that we avoid these career-ending injuries or long-term injuries,” said the Bacolod-native.
Clubs and league officials are set to undergo mandatory RT-PCR testing on October 16, 2020, before entering the Seda Hotel bubble on October 21, 2020. Another round of testing shall be done upon entering the said venue and a negative result means everyone will train.
“I can speak for Kaya and I’m pretty sure all the other clubs share the same sentiment that we’re all very grateful and very, very excited to play,” said Kaya general manager Paul Tolentino.
There will be three games per day and it will take five days in total. The format shall be in a single round-robin and the targeted end date for the season is November 6, 2020. When it comes to slots in Asian Football Confederation competitions, the aforementioned agency shall announce details about this in due time.
“I can also speak on behalf of Stallions and same with Paul and the other coaches and team managers and players from the other teams, we’re just so happy that now we’re at a point that we will get to play officially. We’ve been practicing for more than a month so we’re happy about that and now we’re just itching to really play and keep going with the league because it’s really, really important,” said Stallion coach Ernie Nierras.
The first matchday shall feature the Azkals Development Team vs Mendiola at 9:00 AM followed by Stallion vs Kaya at 4:30 PM and United City vs Maharlika at 8:00 PM.