As of now, the Philippines Football League is eyeing the participation of at least 16 teams in the forthcoming Copa Paulino Alcantara, the domestic league’s season ending tournament this year. PFL Commissioner Coco Torre says invitations have been sent to several teams, including squads from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, colleges and universities, and other amateur clubs to battle it out in the Copa Alcantara.
Torre said those invited will have until February 15 to decide whether they will join the tournament or not. He said some of the teams have already confirmed their participation. The PFL will send another round of invitations if the target number of participants will not be reached on the deadline. The league will, likewise, make an official announcement to advise interested clubs to join.
If logistics will allow, Torre said the PFL is open to welcoming teams from the provinces to join the competitions. Last year, only seven teams participated in the Copa Alcantara. Torre said this year’s edition will be bigger and better.
“Itong expansion natin will be the springboard to a bigger tournament in the coming years. We can’t expect something big at once so we have to start small. We already had a national tournament a few months back with the U-19 tournament. Lahat ng regional football associations sa mga provinces kasama du’n. We had our first and second divisions with teams coming from all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” Torre said.
Kume Coco says the participants will be divided into two groups with the top two teams from each group advancing to the crossover semifinals.
“We will review the caliber of the clubs and their players because we don’t want potential tambakan to happen. This will be good because the Copa Alcantara will serve as a venue for benchmarking the quality of football between the national team members, amateur, collegiate, provincial, club players and even those coming from the Armed Forces,” Torre explained.
On a brighter note, Torre revealed that games in Copa Alcantara will also be played at the McKinley Stadium in Taguig City. Torre said based on international rules, the pitch can be used for domestic competitions.
“We hope to bring the games closer to fans just like in the UFL (United Football League) before,” he said.
Which brings us to the nagging issue on the status of United City FC’s participation in the second half of the ongoing tournament. Kume Coco said that the league is in constant communication with UCFC and they are optimistic that something definite will come out of the discussions.
“The PFL is aware of the alleged internal issues concerning UCFC between the players and the management. Obviously, our main objective is for these matters to be resolved now especially when players and the staff are concerned,” Torre said.
Amid news and speculations on the team’s future, Torre says that there is no official announcement yet from the club.
“There are alleged claims from players but nothing official has been communicated to the PFL. I mean these reports have not been made official to us. But it doesn’t mean that we can just ignore what we hear from the ground,” Torre clarified. “We are discussing with the club, talking about positions and steps that they must take in order to resolve whatever internal issues they are having right now and enable them to participate in the league. We are hoping for the best for the team.”
Torre said issues concerning the status of UCFC will definitely impact the league, but they don’t want to preempt the club on what directions it will eventually take.
A check on the current roster of UCFC indicates that several players and Philippine Azkals mainstays have transferred to other clubs. Kenshiro Daniels is now with Sukhothai FC, Mark Hartmann has packed his bags and moved to Nakhon SI United FC, while Pika Minegishi has suited up with Uthai Thani FC, all in Thailand. Cholo Bugas, on the other hand, will now don the colors of the Azkal Development Team in the PFL.
“As far as we are concerned, there is nothing official yet so let’s not jump the gun on UCFC’s status. We will cross the bridge when we get there,” Torre added.
Torre said the league has scheduled another meeting with the team to discuss what will be the next steps needed to be done by UCFC. He added that the PFL expects all the clubs to have their matters and affairs in order before the resumption of the second half of the ongoing tournament.
The second half of the domestic league resumes next weekend with an out town tussle between Kaya FC Iloilo and Dynamic Herb Cebu FC in the much anticipated Visayas Derby in Iloilo City and a match between Maharlika FC and Stallion Laguna FC.
In hindsight, whatever is happening right now with UCFC is nothing new. We have seen this several times before with Global FC, Ceres Negros FC, Davao Agilas, Loyola Meralco and several other clubs. These clubs dominated the domestic leagues for several years, even qualifying for regional and Asian competitions. They, however, eventually disbanded due to several reasons, but mostly due to financial concerns.
UCFC’s predicament is a reminder that it is really hard to maintain a professional football club in the Philippines. With no guaranteed returns to owners and stakeholders’ investments, our gratitude to those who continue to advance football in the country, no matter what the circumstances are.
More importantly, it is comforting to know that at least we still have a domestic league, despite and in spite of the many challenges.
On a personal matter, The Designated Kit Man and the rest of the Manila Standard would like to extend our hopes and prayers to the family of Ugur Tasci, the owner of Dynamic Herb Cebu FC, players and to the rest of the members of the coaching staff of the team, whose relatives and loved ones were badly affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Please don’t forget to watch and tune in this Sunday, February 12, 2023 from 2 to 3 p.m. for another kuwentuhan at 3PTS–Pambansang Tambayan ng Sports over DZME 1530 KHZ.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
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