While grateful that Philippines Football League clubs will resume actual training soon, Stallion-Laguna FC coach Ernie Nierras cited the challenges in bringing the entire team to and from the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) National Training Center, the exclusive workout venue, in Carmona town, Cavite.
Moving nearly 30 people to the training site is no joke, Nierras pointed out.
“We have a van that we have been using for years. But we are going to follow the protocols. Only nine passengers can be accommodated, driver included,” he said. “We’re not like Ceres-Negros FC before. We don’t do coasters. That’s the reality of football in the Philippines.”
The team does have its own quarters near its home pitch in Biñan, Laguna, a 15-minute ride to the PFF training center, “but not all of our players can live there because some of them still have families back in Manila,” Nierras explained. “If we have 25 players, at least 17 of them ought to stay in Biñan.”
Before elaborating about the training logistics further, the coach was just as glad and relieved that all club members –coaches and staff – tested negative when they underwent swab tests last month.
The Philippine Football Federation, the sport’s national governing body that organizes the PFL, bankrolled the tests for all the PFL clubs.
Despite the potential risks, Nierras was also elated over the attitude displayed by his wards.
“We talked to the players already. They are more than willing to do whatever it takes to finish the season. That’s important to say. I have not one player complain to me ‘No, no, no we don’t do this’,” he said.
Among the latest additions to the team, he said, are midfielder Finn McDaniel, a Filipino-American who joined the national under-22 squad that saw action in the last Southeast Asian Games, and former National University ace forward Lawrence Colina.
Nierras, who was the assistant coach of the National U-22 squad, said the club has already applied for its training schedule with the PFF and awaiting its response.
Even with travel restrictions eased, he acknowledged that transporting the staff and players to the Carmona training center was tough, revealing more of them were set to transfer to the club’s Biñan quarters.
During the lockdown period, the Stallion-Laguna mentor said he and the coaching staff constantly monitored the physical fitness and conditioning of the players so that they would be ready to go once the actual workouts start.
“Our program is ready for the actual training,” said Nierras, who intends to put the regular football pitch plus the two mini pitches meant for seven-a-side football in Carmona to optimum use.
“The 10 who are working on the pitch will be recycled with another 10 players after 30 minutes. We will have different stations all over the field,” Nierras said, adding that he expects two hours of maximum training time for field use.
Among the guidelines laid down by the PFF is that the player will not use the training center’s locker rooms and all training participants will have to go home immediately. The pitch and other football equipment used will be disinfected before they can be used again by the succeeding team.
“We’re good to go. We’re just waiting for the PFF to give us the thumbs up. Let the training begin,” Nierras said.