MANILA, Philippines -- The players of United City FC have remained fit and ready for the AFC Cup, with skipper Stephan Schrock expected to be match-fit after playing for a club in Germany.
Eric Gottschalk, the club's co-founder, said the players are expected to be at different fitness levels but he is confident that they have kept themselves in shape during the long period of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Every player is on a different level, because of the situation they are personally in. Some people are in the provinces, they're able to really walk around, they can do runs, they have maybe a football field where they can do workout sessions," said Gottschalk.
"And then, there are others who are just confined within their apartment complex. So we will see what the fitness level is once everybody gets back together," he added.
Like most sports events, the AFC Cup was halted earlier this year because of the global health crisis. During the break in action, Gottschalk's management group acquired the club formerly known as Ceres Negros FC and rebranded it as United City FC.
The club kept its place in the AFC Cup, where they currently sit on top of Group G with seven points on two wins and a draw.
Games in Group F and G will resume in a centralized venue in Vietnam from September 23 to 29, the AFC announced in July.
"What I know is that everybody has been extremely disciplined of trying to get ready and fit because everybody wants to play football. I'm sure that the players are mature enough to be able to follow their workout routine," Gottschalk said.
What's certain is that Schrock is expected to be in game shape, as the Filipino-German midfielder had signed as a guest player for a lower-level club in Germany, where he has been training.
"He's actually been training with a fifth division club in Germany for the last few weeks. And he's gonna be participating as a guest player with special permission in some of the friendly matches," said Gottschalk.
"So when Stephan comes to the Philippines, he will actually be match-ready, that will be hoped. So he's ready because he's been training, and he's been extremely fortunate in his training regimen," he added.
Gottschalk is certain that the other players will catch up in terms of match fitness.
"We just need to slowly get them going again, and we need to see what their fitness level is," he said.
United City FC retained a bulk of the Ceres Negros FC players, including top goalscorer Bievenido Marañón and OJ Porteria. They also signed several young players, including Pocholo Bugas and goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus.
Aside from United City FC, Kaya FC is also still in the hunt in the AFC Cup. Kaya is in second place in Group H, with five points on a win and two draws. However, the AFC has yet to announce a centralized venue for Group H matches.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).