UFL champs open bid vs Yeedzin
MANILA, Philippines – Reigning United Football League (UFL) champion Global steps into unchartered territory as it opens its bid in the AFC President’s Cup at the Cebu City Sports Complex (CCSC) on Wednesday.
Making history as the country’s first representative in the tournament for clubs in “emerging” soccer nations in Asia, Global battles Yeedzin of Bhutan at 7:30 p.m. at the start of Group B action.
Appearing at the PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate on Tuesday, Global team owner Dan Palami believes Global’s participation in the tournament will open doors for other Filipino clubs to play in bigger international events.
“This is not just for Global, but a milestone for club football in the Philippines,” said Palami at the forum sponsored by Shakey’s and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“This is something new for us. We may be the first Filipino club, but we will not be the last club (to participate in this tournament),” added Palami, the man credited for the rise of the national men’s team, popularly known as the Azkals.
Heavy favorite Dordoi Bishkek of Kyrgyzstan, which has won the tournament twice, and KRL of Pakistan collide in the 4:30 p.m. kickoff.
Only the top two sides after a round robin will advance to the finals in September.
Palami is optimistic of Global’s chances in the tournament, having notched three straight wins in the UFL, before leaving for Cebu last Friday.
Global is powered by nine players who are also part of the national team, including regular starters Carli de Murga and Juani Guirado, goalkeeper Ed Sacapano and midfielders Patrick Reichelt, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Jason de Jong and Denis Wolf.
“We are in a good position to win this tournament with the crowd in Cebu also helping us,” said Palami. “We have quite a strong club. We have a good coach and a good system that we are implementing.”
Ben Starosta, a former Polish Under-19 player, and Ivorian goalkeeper Mousa Sanogo will reinforce the squad coached by Scottish mentor Brian Reid, who led AYR United to promotion to the Scottish first division two years ago.
But Palami believes the performance of his local players will be the key to their success. “It’s going to be a show for the local players. We have several options and if everybody follows the system, I think we will have a good chance,” he said.
“We just hope our progress will be as phenomenal as with the Azkals.”
Palami also lauded the Cebu Football Association (CFA), headed by Ricky Dakay, for doing a "tremendous job" in hosting the event.
"They've been very helpful. What the CFA has done has been nothing short of a miracle particularly with how the pitch at the CCSC looked a few months ago," said Palami.