Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fair Play: Don't miss the Aboitiz Cup final on Sunday

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's June 27 edition)
TO be one of the best football clubs, you have to have ample support and a real structure and in Cebu--no teams epitomize that support and structure better than Leylam FC and Erco Bro.

Before, the dominant teams were Queen City United, backed by the Cebu Amateur Football Club, Hiroshi FC of Haru Iwanaga and Crazy Horse of the Ayabe father and son tandem.



Now, it’s just Leylam and Erco. So, it’s no surprise that both teams are facing each other in the men’s open finals of the Aboitiz Cup, Cebu’s premier football tournament. It’s sort of a rematch because last year, Erco-UC Nigerian won the title over Leylam convincingly, 4-1, but since the Aboitiz Cup champion had to represent Cebu in the PFF Smart Cup--which has a limit on foreigner player participation--another elimination had to be held.

This year, the Aboitiz Cup has adopted the PFF Smart Cup rules on foreigners so it’s smooth sailing for the champion all the way to the PFF Smart Cup nationals, where hopefully, they won’t get screwed again.

So it’s Erco and Leylam anew. Erco, backed by Glenn Ramos, Engr. Rodney Orale and Engr. Keith Buyco, and then you have Leylam of brothers Ugur and Cem Tasci and coached by Oliver Colina, an able playmaker who once saw action for the national U23 pool and had stints as head coach of the national U14 team.

This isn’t the first time they’ve met in the finals this year, and judging from the lack of competition in the local football scene, it won’t be the last. They also met in the World Football 5s elimination, which Leylam won. Leylam also won the national elimination and earned a trip to Dubai last summer and faced teams from Uruguay, Estonia and Germany.

Erco has been busy too and had their youth teams play in Guam.

Going into today’s final, Erco has the slight upperhand as Leylam lost Madi Nji to a red card in the semifinals after the African got into an altercation with Bong Aller of Don Bosco, but Leylam’s got a deep bench.

But knowing Coach Glenn and his ability to adjust mid-game—he once turned a game around offensively by changing a defender—I say the odds are tipped slightly in Erco.

But for this final, I just want a great and clean game, perhaps one that ends in a penalty shootout?

Of course, if you call yourself a football fan, you have to have your butt off to the Cebu City Sports Center for this Sunday’s final at 2:30 p.m.

And if you’re feeling quite nostalgic, you can admire the patch of grass that was once a football pitch that hosted an international game and think what special guests Dan Palami, Thomas Dooley and Misagh Bahadoran will be thinking—we played here against Malaysia just last year?

If we had a field, we could have been the first to see this retooled Azkal squad as weeks before the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Dan was asking around if Cebu could host a friendly.

Guam, the other team that is causing shock-waves in world football with a couple of upsets in its first two games, also wanted to play here, using the connections it established when Erco went there last summer.

No takers and it was useless to push for a friendly because of that patch of grass you’d be seeing on Sunday.

So, see you this Sunday.

P.S. Don’t bring a candle to mourn the CCSC field, that would be a touch too much.

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