Ceres Negros FC and Global Cebu FC battle for a place in history
Bacolod: After a gruelling 28 league game season over a seven-month period, followed by a two-legged semi-final, it all comes down to this. One match – on Saturday, December 16, 2017 at Bacolod’s Panaad Stadium – to decide who writes their name into the history books as the first champions of the Philippines Football League (PFL).
Both Grand Finalists have played more than 40 matches each during the year with their commitments in the continental Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup and the Singapore Cup adding to their already congested fixture list.
The two football gladiators still standing after this arduous journey are Ceres Negros FC from Bacolod, Negro Occidental and Global Cebu FC based in Cebu City, Cebu.
Second-placed Ceres clinched their spot in the final with a hard fought 3-1 aggregate win over Kaya FC-Makati in the semi-final. Goals from Spanish twin terrors of Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon – who have each scored 21 goals in the PFL this season – helped the Busmen power their way to the Grand Final.
Global, commonly known as the People’s Club, had it tougher when they ousted top seeds FC Meralco Manila 3-2 on aggregate, in dramatic fashion.
In the second leg, Rufo Sanchez latched onto a poor clearance by the Meralco defence to score just seven minutes before the final whistle. The goal gave Global the lead which saw them through to Bacolod.
On the international front, both Ceres and Global have had a memorable 2017 season.
Ceres beat Malaysian Super League Club, Johor Darul Ta’zim FC, and Singapore stalwarts, Home United, en route to the AFC Cup Play-Off Inter Zone Final where they eventually lost to Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol.
Global, on the other hand, were making waves in Singapore. Led by Singapore tactician, Akbar Nawas, they stormed into the final of the 2017 Singapore Cup.
Twice coming back from a goal behind, they forced Japanese side, Albirex Niigata Singapore FC, to penalties. But fighting spirit had little to do with the lottery of penalties with Global eventually settling for the losers’ medal.
In a fitting finale to the inaugural PFL, Ceres and Global have a longstanding rivalry stretching from their days in the United Football League (UFL).
Ceres pipped Global to the 2015 UFL title with Global clinching the championship the following year. The semi-professional UFL, the precursor to the current professional PFL, started in 2010, with clubs playing within the Metro Manila area only.
The Philippines Football Federation (PFF) launched the PFF National League Task Force in December 2013, with the aim of moving into the professional era, looking to capitalise on the creditable performances of the Philippines National Team at recent ASEAN Football Federation Championship tournaments.
In recognition of the success of the PFL, the AFC Development Committee awarded the AFC League Development Award 2017 to the PFF.
Football is far from being the number one sport in the Philippines so this award is a testament to the PFF’s commitment, dedication and hard work put into growing the game.
The winners of the Ceres-Negros FC and Global Cebu FC tie will earn a berth in the 2018 AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage.
The match will be streamed live on the AFC Live Streaming Platform via MyCujoo - https://mycujoo.tv/philippine-football-federation?id=11734.
Photos: Philippines Football Federation & Philippines Football League