Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fair Play: UFL puts up special Visayas Division

This is my Sept. 19 Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu 


YEP, the United Football League (UFL) loves the Visayas fans so much they decided to put up a Visayas Division for the UFL Cup.

It’s either that or the football gods have quite a sense of humor.

I mean, how would you explain the draw for the UFL Cup? Of the four Visayas teams in the 28-team field, all of them got picked, by four different folks, to be in one four-team bracket in Group C?
Global FC (Dan Palami of Leyte), Pachanga (which will have Bacolod players and will be led by Norman Fegidero), Stallions FC (of Nonong Araneta of Iloilo) got picked one after the other in Group C?

What’s the probability of that happening? It’s so rare that I’m going to look for number combinations in the teams and the UFL draw for a lottery entry. Or I could just ask those four guys to pick me six numbers.

Jaron Genota, who must have a direct line to the football gods, tweeted after the third team was picked,
“Wow! Group of Death, Group C: Global, Pachanga and Stallions. Isa pang malakas para mas masaya!

And, like I said, because the football gods have a sick sense of humor, that isa-pang-malakas para-mas-masaya happened to be UFL debutant Cebu Queen City United, which, just a week ago was busy identifying its coaching staff and two weeks ago, had no idea it was joining the UFL.

And Jaron is to blame. Maybe the PFF should bring him when AFC holds the draw for the Challenge Cup? That way, he can have all the tough teams in one draw and put the Philippines in an easier group.

So CQCU will be up against the three teams that made the Smart Club Championships semis in its UFL Cup debut.

“You wanted a UFL Southern Division? You got it!” Kaya team owner Santi Araneta, the man who convinced Queen City to join the league, tweeted.

And of course, since it’s a special Visayas Division in the UFL Cup, Santi said the games will be televised and the Iloilo Stallions vs. Queen City match could even serve as the opener.

But that’s not the match I’m really interested in. It’s the Global FC vs. Cebu Queen City match that I’m really curious about because it will pit Paolo Pascual against the Cebuanos.

I told Paolo, who was a chubby second-grader the first time I interviewed him, for the first time I’d be rooting against him because of the draw, while his dad, Joel, told me that in Cebu vs. Global, “Diri ra ko sa ako anak,” but we both know that this is a game that we’d be happy whoever wins.

And Global, being the defending champion, will go all-out against Cebu, the newbie in Group C.

How will Cebu, who, as of last Saturday was still finalizing its lineup, fare against the heavyweights?
 
We will all find out. And, fans in Cebu can follow the games too because these will be televised.

The new five-year deal the UFL has with TV 5 calls for two live games every week and of the eight groups, the primary focus would be on this Visayas Eliminations, because UFL and TV 5 know that during the last time a UFL team played the Azkals, ratings in the Visayas were the highest.

Yes, interest in Philippine football is at an all-time high even the artistas are signing up for UFL teams, including the boyfriend of the actress who tweeted that footballers should stay in football and not join showbiz.

Graeme Mackinnon, who got adept at Twitter because of football, told me, “It was only a matter of a few months ago that we sat at our computers to follow the Azkals vs. Myanmar football game on Twitter. People laughed when it was first suggested that we could ‘watch’ the game on twitter because of the TV blackout. But it is a measure of how far Philippine football has come when again last Friday night Twitter brought us all the action of the UFL Cup draw in Manila. The interaction of the Twitterers was fantastic. The comments as the groups were finalized was as exciting as a game itself.”

“As in any cup draw, there is always one group that is referred to as the Group of Death..and Cebu Queen City United drawn into Group C has been thrown in at the deepest end of the football pool in their baptism of fire for their UFL debut,” Graeme said.

I agree, but it won’t just be the players who will have the baptism of fire. The Cebuano fans, who have adopted UFL teams in the previous seasons, will be on it, too.


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