By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippines Football League (PFL) finally kicks off its long-awaited new season on Oct. 25 with pioneer teams Stallion Laguna FC and Kaya FC-Iloilo expressing their excitement and readiness to get back into action.
The remaining clubs which have been part of the league since its inception in 2017, officials of Stallion and Kaya said the feeling is great to get the action going once again after the coronavirus pandemic threatened to wipe out the PFL’s fourth season altogether.
“It’s great to be playing once again. We are looking forward to getting the competition going and everybody is working hard to get in shape,” said Stallion coach Ernest Nierras at the league’s virtual season launch press conference last week.
The PFL was supposed to start its new season in March, but was pushed back several times because of the pandemic.
Things opened up for the league after it was allowed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to start training, along with the Philippine Basketball Association, after submitting health and safety protocols for a return.
It continued to work with pertinent government agencies after, paving the way for the season to start with games to be played solely, and without fans, at the Philippine Football Federation National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.
For the successes it had in the last couple of seasons of the PFL, including winning the Copa Paulino Alcantara in 2018, Kaya has been installed as one of the favorite teams for the league title.
But for Kaya general manager Paul Tolentino, they are not putting too much weight on what they accomplished in seasons past, recognizing that the new season at hand is a whole new tournament bearing different circumstances.
“We have to prove ourselves from the start. What we did in the past seasons is done and does not count for anything. Everybody starts from zero and you have to earn it every single match all the way to the end,” Mr. Tolentino said.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge and eager to play. We are excited for the matches and give the fans what they like,” he added.
Messrs. Nierras and Tolentino also welcomed the entry of new clubs like United City Football Club (UCFC), Maharlika FC, and Azkals Development Team to the PFL, seeing them as giving added dimension to the league.
“We’re expecting a good season with the entry of the new teams. They have put up good and interesting teams,” said Mr. Nierras.
“UCFC is like a new club, but the roster is 80 to 90% holdovers from the previous team under Ceres. On paper, they will still be favorites. We will have to see obviously if that continuity has transferred over to the new ownership, but I expect them to be a tough challenge to take on—one that we are looking forward to,” Mr. Tolentino, for his part, said, referring to United City which took over the spot of three-time PFL champion Ceres-Negros FC, which decided to leave the league at the height of the pandemic.
“In terms of Maharlika and ADT, both teams are very interesting and tricky because we know little about them. So, we have to watch their matches closely so we will know exactly what we are going up against. But both have exciting players, both have young and upcoming players who are eager to prove themselves. So, we are going up against teams that will be competitive.”
Another team competing in PFL Season 4 is Mendiola FC 1991.
Stallion and Kaya will play each other on opening day.