Eight top teams from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will vie for the prestige and honor of becoming the first champion of the PFF-Smart Club Championships whose group competitions kick off in Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo on August 9.
“This tournament is part of our continuing commitment to football and the Philippine Football Federation,” said Epok Quimpo of Smart Sports in yesterday’s PSA Forum in Manila.
Joining Quimpo in the session was PFF competitions head Cyril Dofitas, representing PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr., who disclosed the teams competing and the mechanics of the tournament.
Dofitas said that vying in Group A in Cagayan de Oro are Iligan, Leyte, NCR 2 and Rizal while in Group B in Iloilo are Baguio-Benguet, Davao, Iloilo and NCR 1.
“With this event, the PFF aims to strengthen club competitions at the provincial level while giving opportunities for aspiring football players a showcase for their talent would not be available for them had this tournament not been around,” Dofitas said.
Quimpo pointed out that the sponsorship of the PFF-Smart Club Championships is part of the P80 million that Smart chief and business tycoon Manny Panglilinan invested for the long-term development of the sport.
Both Quimpo and Dofitas said that some national players will be suiting up for some clubs with the Younghusband brothers, Phil and James, seeing action for the Rizal side that will be carrying the colors of Smart San Beda FC mentored by former national coach Aris Caslib.
On the other hand, Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta will be playing for Teknika, which will be participating in Cagayan de Oro tournament as the second squad that qualified from the National Capital Region.
Smart Stallions FC, representing Iloilo, will have former national stalwarts Jovanie Simpron, Ruben Doctora and three youthful but skillful South Korean students from Central Philippines University - Kim Seong Jin, Nam Yeoh No and Lee Jeo Young.
The Don Gregorio Pelaez Memorial Stadium will be the venue of the Cagayan de Oro tourney while the Barotac Nuevo football field will host the Group B matches in Iloilo.
The top two teams after in both groups after single-round play will advance to the crossover semifinals scheduled Aug. 16 and 17 at the University of Makati Stadium, with the Group A topnotcher facing the Group B runner-up while the Group B first placer takes on the runner-up in Group B.
Similar to the Suzuki Cup and the recent World Cup qualifiers, the two finalists will dispute the championship on a home-and-away basis on August 20 and August 23.
“Depending on the outcome of the semifinals there is a possibility that we might stage both championship matches at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium,” both Quimpo and Dofitas said.*PNA
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