Pending further notice, Ceres-Negros FC remains a member of the Philippines Football League, according to Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr.
“Walang official statement and Ceres-Negros FC regarding withdrawal,” Araneta said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
In fact, the head of the sport’s national governing body said, “at the moment status quo pa lang naman. Nag-attend sila (Ceres-Negros FC) ng Zoom meeting of clubs kanina (At the moment it still is status quo. They attended our Zoom meeting of clubs earlier.)”
The PFF chief said he was aware of the rumors that the Bacolod club, owned by businessman Leo Rey Yanzon, might bolt the PFF-organized PFL, “pero so far wala pa rin silang statement (but so far they still have not issued a statement).”
He, however, did not rule out the Busmen still leaving, saying, “Mukha namang may sasalo just in case na, unfortunately, na aalis sila sa league. (There is a team that might come in just in case that, unfortunately, they do leave).”
Araneta bared that the new team has expressed interest in joining the league “and we might entertain them tomorrow. We might waive the licensing fee, in the meantime, due to the (COVID-19) pandemic.”
He declined to divulge the name of the club, however, although the PFF sent an email notice that it was scheduled to have an online press conference before noon on Wednesday.
Even if the Busmen, who swept the domestic League and Cup titles last season, remain they will be without former Philippine Azkals mainstay and midfielder James Younghusband, who retired last month, citing the league’s delay due to the pandemic.
If it happens, Ceres-Negros’s departure would be a big blow to the PFL, leaving it without a major marquee club that has been the country’s consistent standard bearer in both domestic and international club competitions.
Formed in 2012 under the banner of Ceres-La Salle FC, the club first made its presence felt a year later after clinching the PFF national men’s football club championship, nipping Pasargad FC 1-0 in the finals.
Two years later, the club ruled Division 1 of the United Football League, which disbanded and gave way to the PFL in 2017, at which point it took on the Ceres-Negros FC brand.
Built around a powerhouse cast featuring mostly past and present mainstays of the Azkals, the Busmen have dominated the league for three years in a row, highlighted by their golden double in 2019 when they took both the league and the Paulino Alcantara Cup trophies.
In 2018, Ceres-Negros was the first local club to reach the Asian Football Confederation Cup ASEAN Zonal finals, losing to Singapore’s Home United 1-3 on aggregate in the home-and-away series.
The Busmen were also the first Philippine domestic side to play in the AFC Champions League, the continent’s top club competition, reaching the knockout round early this year where they lost 0-2 to FC Tokyo, which plays in the J1 League.
With two wins and one draw, Ceres-Negros was showing the way in Group G of the AFC Cup when play was suspended in early March due to the pandemic.
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