MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) is optimistic that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will allow United City FC to keep its place in the 2020 AFC Cup.
United City FC is the new name of Ceres-Negros FC, one of two teams along with Kaya-Iloilo representing the Philippines in the continental competition.
The club was renamed after a new ownership group acquired Ceres-Negros from Leo Rey Yanson, the previous owner.
"We have to write to AFC (and tell them), this is the same team, except (with new) owners," PFF president Mariano "Nonong" Araneta said.
"There's a change in ownership, but it's basically the same team, with the same players. It's just a change of ownership," he added. "And I think AFC will agree to that, that it's just a change of the name itself, but the club is still the same as far as the competition is concerned."
Before the competition came to a halt because of the global coronavirus pandemic, Ceres-Negros had been leading the way in Group G of the AFC Cup with seven points on two wins and a draw.
Kaya-Iloilo was in second in Group H, with five points on a win and two draws.
"We want them (United City FC) to represent us in the AFC Cup," Araneta said. "The groupings are already determined."
"Hopefully, there is no disruption in the schedule, because we are putting up not a new team, but the same team with a different name," he added.
Araneta also expressed his gratitude to the United City FC ownership, represented by MMC Sportz Asia chief executive Eric Gottschalk, for investing in the club.
"When Ceres advised us that there might be a chance that they will not participate anymore, it was really a big letdown. Fortunately, Eric's group came in and talked to the Ceres people, and it went well," he said.
"We would like to thank Ceres. They have been here in the Philippine football scene for so many years, and they have represented the country in Asia," he added.
Gottschalk, for his part, credited the previous ownership group for the smooth transfer. Yanson had agreed to sell not just the team, but its license as well, and thus it was not necessary for Gottschalk and his group to apply for a new one.
"(If we had) to apply for a new license… we would not have been able to participate this year in the league and the AFC Cup," he explained. "The players and the staff would not have been able to play football over the next few months. Thank you very much to Mr. Yanson and his team."
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