Cebu Football 2017
BLEACHER TALK - Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - December 31, 2017 - 12:00am

Cebu Football in 2017 was business as usual. It may not have been as spectacular as the previous years when the Azkals came to play friendly games against Singapore and Malaysia and when Cebu hosted the AFC President’s Cup, but the inaugural season of the Philippines Football League did more than make up for these. Other than that, it was the usual staging of football games spread over a calendar that was booked practically all year round for both football and futsal games. We must remember that Cebu Football accomplished all these despite the lack of football fields. I’ve always been amazed with how Cebu Football manages to survive despite the fact that no new fields were added vis-à-vis the regular calendar of football activities. And this becomes an automatic wish list for the football community.

Tournaments. All year-round. 2017 was booked from January to December. The premier tournament for the regular 11-a-side (long-running) football was the 17th Aboitiz Football Cup that covered age groups from Under 6 years old, all the way to 40-above. Games were strategically scheduled to make sure all bases were covered to create a win-win situation for all. There was a spread of different champions winning the different age groups, proving that the competitive level of the various football clubs is stable and tough. The calendar was also filled with various football festivals or futsal tournaments that usually take up a weekend (or two). Among the more prominent football festivals include the Thirsty Cup and Sinulog Cup. Other festivals were also held outside Metro Cebu in places like Balamban, Barili and Alcoy. The icing on the cake had to be the first season of the Philippines Football League with Global Cebu FC playing its home games (or most of it) at the Cebu City Sports Center where it never tasted defeat.

While Global Cebu FC was Cebu Football’s top professional team, Leylam FC and ERCO FC proved to be the top local men’s open teams not only for 2017 but for the past three to four years. While there were reports of Leylam FC disbanding its team, the good news is that they’ve been reactivated and are back in the scene very quickly. The University of San Carlos proved that they were the top collegiate team in the land while Don Bosco Technology Center dominated the boys youth age groups (high school and younger). Meanwhile, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu stood out as the top girls football team for age group football and futsal (Under 17 and 15). From Cebu’s teams, a number of players were named to various age group national teams that saw action in international tournaments. This included those Manila-based Cebu products who also played for the country’s colors.

On top of the tournaments, a welcome activity was the grassroots clinic program that the Cebu Football Association launched in partnership with the Cebu Provincial Sports Commission, a first of its kind. Football clinics were held around the province with the CFA providing the coaches for these clinics. With the launch of the Governor’s Cup for basketball in 2017 and one for volleyball in 2018, we hope football (and futsal) won’t be left behind in 2018. Also conducted were various coaching license courses for local coaches to improve their craft. Both “B” and “C” license course was held in Cebu. The referees had their share of refresher courses in Cebu, with some senior referees sent to attend high-level courses at the national level. The CFA sent board member Nimrod Quiñones to attend an AFC course on hosting international games; this was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If there was one department that we haven’t improved on in 2017, this would have to be the lack of football fields. The CFA took under its arms the maintenance of the field at the Cebu City Sports Center for the games of the PFL. But it’s the only field we’ve got. The football boom hasn’t found benefactors who are willing to put up football fields that can accommodate all of Cebu’s teams and tournaments. We are hoping that the football fields at the USC Talamban campus, Naga and Balamban can also be maintained in tip-top shape so regular tournament games can be held here. The fields at Don Bosco, PAREF-Springdale, SHS-Ateneo and San Roque also need some rehab help to recover from its wear-and-tear. The good news is that Leylam FC owner Ugur Tasci is putting up a FIFA-regulation artificial football field and an indoor futsal court at the SRP by mid-2018. AboitizLand also plans to put up football fields in its residential projects in Lilo-an, but this isn’t taking place anytime soon. Better late than never.

From an organizational standpoint, it was formally announced that the CFA will soon cease to exist and give way to a regional body called the Central Visayas Regional Football Association. This is a directive from the FIFA and AFC with the entire country’s football associations switching to a regional set-up in the next two years. This will also mean the gathering of all football clubs under one roof to organize the CVRFA. The interesting development here is if today’s leaders of Cebu Football will continue to get a vote of confidence from an expanded Central Visayas football clubs to continue leading the pack. And yes, that includes this bleacher bum who doesn’t mind giving way to more qualified and competent football leaders.

Cebu Football is grateful for another productive year that was 2017 with a dream for an even bigger 2018.

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