By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Reporter

Big moment for Philippine football

Ceres, Kaya book AFC Cup Round of 16 slots

Posted on May 17, 2016

FOR the first time ever Philippine club football teams are advancing to the Round of 16 of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, which is something big and to bask in, said one local football analyst.

Ceres-La Salle FC is through to the Round of 16 of the AFC Cup and is to face South China AA of Hong Kong. --
In separate events last week, United Football League (UFL) marquee teams Ceres-La Salle FC and Kaya FC booked their spots in the knockout stage of Asia’s second-tier tournament for domestic football clubs.

Bacolod-based Ceres topped Group E in the group stages with a record of three wins and three draws for 12 points and is to meet South China AA of Hong Kong. Kaya (3-1-2) finished second in Group F with 10 points and is facing Group H winner and defending AFC Cup champion Johor Darul Ta’zim Football Club of Malaysia.

Considering how organized club football is relatively young in the country, there is no doubting the significance of what Ceres and Kaya have done in the AFC Cup, said Ryan Fenix, resident football analyst of and author of the column “Rampaging Fullback,” in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“This is very big for Philippine football, especially if you consider that two years ago we didn’t have any representative to the AFC Cup and that organized football was in the country only in 2010,” said the analyst, who is also a contributing writer for ESPN FC.

He also underscored how the two teams’ spirited run in the AFC Cup has earned for Philippine club football the respect of other nations relative to how it has improved throughout the years.

Looking ahead to the Round of 16 which is to take place next week, Mr. Fenix said Ceres and Kaya are presented new challenges and must bring their A-game, especially Kaya who is up against a very weighty opponent.

“Kaya will be having a monster of a time against Johor Darul Ta’zim. It’s a big, big game for the team against the Malaysian giant and defending AFC Cup champion. That said, it is a marquee matchup,” the analyst said.

Johor Darul Ta’zim, who recently won its first-ever Malaysia FA Cup title, was solid in the group stages and was the only team to post an unblemished 6-0-0 record.

On the part of Ceres, Mr. Fenix sees a more “safer” passage, considering it plays at home and boasts of a souped-up roster.

“Ceres versus South China is more doable, especially playing at home. Fancy Ceres to go through,” he said.

South China finished the group stages second in Group G with a record of 3-0-3 with nine points.

Ceres plays at its Pana-ad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City on May 24 while Kaya travels to Malaysia to face Johor Darul Ta’zim at Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahur on May 25.

Meanwhile in the UFL, JP Voltes FC and Stallion FC were Sunday fixtures winners.

JP Voltes routed Forza FC, 7-1, and Stallion edged Kaya, 1-0, in games held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.