Thursday, December 05, 2013

Fair Play: Kids to benefit in PFF plan

MARIO LORENZO CENIZA is going to be a football star. That’s what I thought the first time I saw Mario Ceniza’s kid play years ago.

A prodigous talent, he was a class above the rest even if he was playing above his age group. His vision, passing skills and striking abilities--in both feet--was evident in Springdale’s 8-0 thrashing of Mindanao in the Milo National finals last week. The attacks started from him and his pin-point passes from deep in the midfield.

Such talent, will not go unnoticed for long. Enzo is not with the national team, for reasons that doesn’t concern his football skills.

Such is football in the country. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

But even if he is ignored by the national youth team, players like Enzo will now have another avenue to prove their worth and make football a viable option post-college (or even during college). The Philippine Football Federation will launch a national league in a couple of years, and that plan is music to the ears of the players who are in high school right now.

They should be at their peak when that league--yet to be named--gets going.

The league will have 10 teams in Division 1 and 10 in Division 2, and teams will be based in key cities, Cebu being one of them.

What is the requirement? Teams must have access to a 5,000-seater stadium, AFC A-licensed coach, and a youth team set-up. Like what club football should be about.

Cebu has the Cebu City Sports Center, and a club in the league doesn’t really have to own a stadium to join one, but only needs a MOA to be able to use it for home matches.

If not the Cebu City Sports Center, there’s always the USC football stadium up north.

That league means talented players like Enzo will be one of the coveted signings in the future.

“If Cebu won’t get Enzo, we’ll get him for Global,” said Dan Palami. His team plays in the UFL, which will co-exist with the national league.

Another Cebuano Palami is eyeing is Val Calvo, formerly of the Don Bosco Technological Center.

The league requires teams to have a youth setup, that means for Cebuanos dreaming of a career, the days of having to go to Manila to be discovered are over.

And Cebu’s youth team setup is one of the best in the country, as shown by numerous titles in the Palarong Pambansa and Milo Little Olympics national finals.

Schools like Don Bosco, Springdale, Ateneo de Cebu, Abellana National School, Canduman and even Bright Academy are churning up players who get signed up for the national youth teams. And a Cebu club in the national league won’t have a shortage of players for its youth squads, as it can afford to pick the best that Cebu has to offer.

The PFF, which will have the support of the Asian Football Confederation and Fifa for this project, isn’t rushing things. They’ve formed a Task Force in charge of the league to make sure it won’t go the way of the P-League, which folded up in the late 90s after just a couple of seasons.

This is what fans have dreamed about for years, a national league, and the time is ripe for it.

This means a career, not just for the players but for anyone involved in club football--coaches, assistants, trainers and scouts.

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