TEAMS from the Ateneo de Manila and Ateneo de Naga were crowned champions of Ateneo alumni football at the 4th Inter-Ateneo Football Friendlies (IAF), which was held last Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Ateneo de Manila High School football field.

The Ateneo de Manila Eagles tore through a highly-competitive 40+ age group en route to the championship. Led by Brisbane-based midfielder Pat Martir, striker Karlo Laurel, winger Paolo Aquino and defensive stalwart Paolo Buendia, the team dominated the division and swept all seven games on its schedule.

In the 48+ age group, Ateneo de Naga edged out defending champion Ateneo de Manila Team 1 on goal difference. Both teams finished the single-robin format tournament with identical records of 4 wins and 2 draws but the Naga-based squad scored one more goal than its Manila rival to secure its first title.

At the awarding ceremonies, Ateneo de Naga team captain Joel Bartolome emphatically announced that this victory is particularly sweet because “for the longest time in the history of football, a Naga-based team has never won a national trophy in football until tonight!” Aside from Bartolome, Ateneo de Naga relied on the Individual awards in the 40+ division went to Wilbert Racines (best keeper) and Jaylan Tagud (best striker) of Xavier University, and to Ateneo de Manila’s Paolo Buendia (best defender) and Pat Martir (best midfielder), who was also honored as the divisions most valuable player. Xavier’s Tagud netted the most goals in the tourney with seven scores.

In the 48+ division, Ateneo de Manila’s Paul Arcenas kept a clean sheet to cop best goalkeeper honors. Naga’s tandem of Canlas and Carbonilla were named as best defender and best midfielder, respectively, with the latter also winning Most Valuable Player honors. The award for best striker in the division was split between Manila’s Joao Pajaro and Zamboanga’s Mike Fernandez who netted three goals each.     

The IAF will return in 2025 as Ateneo de Naga defends its title on home ground.

IAF 2024 Manila was presented by partner Bank of the Philippine Islands, and supporting sponsors Red Rock IT Security, SMC Infrastructure, Rebisco, Likha Residences, BMW Motorrad, PAGCOR, Thunderbird Resort and Casino, Arton by Rockwell, Randy’s Donuts, and Smart Sports. Other sponsors include Torre Lorenzo Development Corp., First Philippine Holdings, Smart Sports, Auntie Anne’s, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Viva/ Vivamax, Bo’s Coffee, and a College 1989 alumnus. 

The IAF is an annual football tournament open to former students of the various Ateneo universities. Previous editions were held in Cagayan de Oro 2020), Davao (2022), Zamboanga (2023).