After a frustratingly long wait for fans and players alike, the Philippines Football League (PFL) will finally kick off on October 25 with a shortened fourth season featuring a triple header at the Philippine Football Federation national training center field in Carmona town, Cavite.
Coming off a 7-month layoff, all 6 teams will be back in action on opening day with the Azkals Development Team ushering in hostilities when it takes on Mendiola FC at 9 a.m. while clubs Stallion-Laguna and Kaya-Iloilo collide in the second match at 4 pm.
Newcomers United City FC, with several carryovers from multi-titled Ceres-Negros FC, and Maharlika FC cap the day’s games at 8 p.m., according to PFL commissioner Coco Torre during an online afternoon press conference Wednesday.
Also present during the briefing were PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr., general-secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes, Games and Amusements Board chairman Baham Mitra, GAB health and safety officer Kara Mallonga, Kaya-Iloilo team manager Paul Tolentino and Stallion-Laguna co-owner and coach Ernie Nierras.
“We would like to thank everyone for making this league finally come through,” said Araneta, particularly Mitra in playing a key role taking up the cudgels on behalf of the PFF, the PFL’s organizer, in convincing national government authorities on the viability and safety of the event.
“We believe in our organization and self-regulation. We are just here to guide you,” said Mitra, an avid football fan, who reiterated that he would enter the PFL bubble to watch some of the games.
“I am really an avid fan of football and while I am not going to the PBA or 3x3 Chooks-to-Go bubbles, I will be in the PFL to witness the games and see that everybody is safe and everything is in order,” he added. “We’re very much together in this.”
He reiterated that turning pro “entails a lot of responsibilities and gaining a license is a privilege and not a right,” adding that the GAB will also conduct a seminar among the footballers on how to conduct themselves professionally before the event starts.
Despite being an outdoor competition, Mallonga noted that PFL and PFF officials “went above and beyond what was required of them in regards to the health protocols. It was a lot of long hours and hard work. ”
“These are very exciting times and being on the sidelines for seven months, we are really looking forward to competitive matches soon,” said Tolentino, “and special thanks to the GAB for guiding through this process. We are really very excited to play.”
“A big thanks to chairman Mitra for supporting us all the way. We are really itching to play,” said Nierras. “The winners here really are the fans. This is a big deal for them.”
Upon the request of the six squads involved, Torre said that tournament was reduced to a single-round competition “considering that all of them have been laid for nearly 7 months so as to avoid any major injuries to the players.”
He added that the topnotcher in the overall standings after the one-round series will be declared the champion, with ties to be resolved under the quotient system.
“All the six clubs and participating PFF personnel will undergo swabbing on Friday and will have another one on Oct. 21 as they enter the bubble,” said Torre, adding that if everything works out the practices will begin two days later.
All of the PFL participants will be quartered at Seda Nuvali Hotel in Santa Rosa city, Laguna, a 30-minute ride from the competition venue.
“Even the shuttle bus drivers will be leaving inside the bubble to ensure their health and safety,” Gastanes bared.
“With a two-day rest between match days, we expect the competition to conclude on Nov. 6,” Torre said.
Given the abbreviated season, those who test positive for the virus once they enter the bubble will have to move out and are unlikely able to return while protocol violators will also have to leave and suffer sanctions from the PFF disciplinary committee, according to the commissioner.
Gastanes said the newly installed klieg lights at the national training center will be operational once the PFL matches get under way.