MANILA, Philippines -- The new owners of United City FC -- formerly Ceres-Negros FC -- are determined to build on the history that the club has made in Philippine football.
An ownership group, represented by Eric Gottschalk of MMC Sportz Asia, took over the management of the team from Leo Rey Yanson, who established the club in 2012.
Gottschalk's company has been involved with Philippine football for around a decade, having organized camps in the country as well as friendly matches with teams in the Middle East for the Philippine Azkals. Over the past two years, the ownership group -- which includes Midas Promotions founder Michael Hosking -- has been setting up a "larger football project" in the country.
"When the opportunity with Ceres came about, it's an accelerator of a project that's been planned for more than two years," said Gottschalk, who stressed that it would have been "very bad" for football in the Philippines if Ceres-Negros was forced to fold.
Ceres-Negros had been a dominant force in Philippine football, having won the Philippines Football League (PFL) for the past three seasons while also representing the country in the AFC Cup.
It is also the home of some of the country's best players, including brothers Manny and Mike Ott and skipper Stephan Schrock. Prior to his retirement, James Younghusband last played club football for Ceres-Negros.
"A lot of things fell in place very quickly," Gottschalk said of the club's sale. "Ceres was ready to transfer the license, then it went back to the players. The players were hugely excited to participate… Everybody came on board."
He acknowledged that there are risks in taking on the ownership and management of a club, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
However, Gottschalk said the risk was "manageable."
"If we are not confident, if we are not bullish around it, we would not get involved," he said. "We are very confident that there's a future in football in the Philippines."
Gottschalk further made it clear that their group has a vision for United City FC.
"We are not here to play football for the next three months. The end goal is a five- to 10-year plan," he explained.
Among the goals that Gottschalk and his group have in mind is to continue giving opportunities to local players to play football in the Philippines -- something that Ceres-Negros management made a point of doing.
Gottschalk noted that in recent years, the Philippines have lost some of their best local footballers to foreign leagues, including the Thai Super League.
"There are Filipino players that did not play locally because the infrastructure was not there, or they received more money," he said. "We're trying to build football so that players can come back and find the Philippines as the league of preference."
What's important, Gottschalk said, is to recognize that United City FC won't be able to achieve their goals on their own. He is counting on the help of the other clubs in the PFL, particularly their archrivals Kaya FC, so that they can continuously raise the profile of Philippine football both here and abroad.
"We all need to come together and make sure that people keep talking about Philippine football," he said.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).