Friday, October 05, 2012

PFF, Smart launch 'bigger, better club championships'

THE Philippine Football Federation and Smart Communications, Inc. launched the PFF Smart National Club championship in Cebu yesterday, hoping to duplicate the strong turnout during its initial staging last year.

"There was really a strong response when we held it in Cagayan de Oro last year," said Smart Sports manager Epok Quimpo, who said the games in Cagayan attracted a full stadium almost daily.

To duplicate that, this year, the Smart National Club championships will have cluster and regional eliminations outside of Manila and the quarterfinal matches could also be hosted in the provinces.

There will be two clusters for Luzon, one for Visayas, four for Mindanao and one for the National Capital Region.  After the cluster eliminations, there will be a Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao eliminations, where the top two teams will advance to the quarterfinal round along with the top 10 teams that are participating in the UFL Cup.

There will be another drawing of lots for the quarterfinal round and if a provincial team will face a UFL club, that game will be hosted by the provincial FA.

The Visayas eliminations, initially scheduled on Nov. 7 to 11, could be moved to a later date

"This is a chance for PFA teams to face UFL clubs," said Quimpo.

PFF competitions chairman Cyril Dofitas said that to help boost the PFA teams who make the quarterfinal round, they will have a transfer window that will allow the teams to add or drop eight players for their 25-man squad.

Last year, Global FC-Teknika of Dan Palami won the two-leg title over Smart San Beda, which was led by Phil and James Younghusband, earning the P100,000 prize. However, team owner Dan Palami said they have yet to receive the prize money.

This year, the Smart Club championship has doubled the prize money to P200,000 and Quimpo said the tournament is part of Smart’s P80 million financial aid to the PFF which was announced during the 2011 PFF Board of Governors’ meeting in Cebu.

"Every year, we will have this and every year we will make it better," said Dofitas.

Dofitas, a veteran official from the PFF who has overseen numerous national tournaments, said he is hoping a team in the Visayas region will make it all the way to the finals.

“We welcome the participation of our Visayas football associations.  We have witnessed great progress in the local football scene and we’re hoping a team from this region can make it to the finals,” he said.  “In the Visayas, it’s still anybody’s ball game.”

Dofitas also said foreign players will be allowed in the tournament.

“Good foreign players can elevate the level of the game,” he said.

In the Visayas, Cebu Queen City United—representing the Cebu Football Association, will be competing with traditional powerhouse Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental as well as Iloilo and Leyte FA.

“Queen City has been practicing every day, even if we don’t have any games.  We have been working on the stamina aspect,” said Queen City United president Stanley Villacin.

Villacin also said they have two foreigners, a Nigerian and a Japanese, who only learned about the Queen City tryout online and flew to Cebu all alone.

“He didn’t know anybody here and he didn’t speak English.  We had to call Tanaka (a Japanese who plays for Queen City's senior
teams) to interpret for us,” said Villacin. “We learned he was just staying in one of those pension houses for P250 a day and Tanaka
took pity on him and let him lived in his house.”

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