Cebu FC prepares for war

·3 min read

What one word would embody Cebu’s very own professional football club these days?

“Hücum,” exclaimed Memet Kakil, the new head coach of Dynamic Herb Cebu Football Club.

Pronounced hoo-jum, it’s a Turkish word that means attack, a quality that Coach Kakil wants to inculcate in this young but determined team as they prepare for the 2022 Copa Paulino Alcantara.

“But remember, the best offense is a good defense,” emphasized the FIFA A-licensed Turkish coach through an interpreter.

Kakil’s offensive mindset as a coach comes as no surprise as he himself played as a top-scoring center forward in a career that spanned more than a decade in Turkey.

No less than Cebu FC Chairman Ugur Tasci brought Coach Kakil, along with Assistant Coach Levent Ozturk, from Turkish Super Lig club Hatayspor to the Philippines Football League side.

Apart from the two coaches, Tasci also signed three players from Hatayspor: striker Arda Cinkir, midfielder Mert Altinoz and center back Nazim Ozcan on loan.

Hatayspor is now in midtable in the Super Lig, which Coach Levent describes as a highly competitive league that has seen three different champions in the last five seasons.

Despite the disparity between the level of Turkish and Philippine football, the Turkish coaches see significant room for growth for talent-laden Cebu FC.

All this is aligned with Tasci’s vision for the Cebu-based club.

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Cebu FC’s strong debut in last year’s Copa Alcantara showed that the club, then with head coach Oliver “Bingbing” Colina at the helm, are serious contenders at the national level.

The Philippine Football Federation has since secured Colina’s services as assistant coach of the Azkals Development Team and Philippines Under-23 Team.

In an interview at the Dynamic Herb-Borromeo Football Field, the club’s home stadium, Tasci said candidly that Coach Bing’s departure was just a pause in their working relationship, saying it’s “just a comma, not a period.”

“I am thankful and grateful to him. He’s my long-time friend and my coach,” Tasci said. “Hopefully I can still work with him in the future.”

And there is much to look forward to, especially that Cebu FC has entered a partnership with Hatayspor, a club based in Tasci’s home Province of Hatay.

On the day of the interview, Tasci had just arrived from Turkey after signing an agreement with Hatayspor Honorary President Dr. Lutfi Savas, the mayor of Hatay.

The agreement aims to develop Cebu FC’s men’s and women’s teams, as well as its football academy programs starting at the grassroots level.

“Part of this partnership is an exchange of coaching staff, players and programs, including those for the academy,” Tasci said.

Apart from the Hatayspor players, Cebu FC added striker Chima Uzoka, former FEU goalkeeper John Ryll Eldian and Don Bosco Boys Home product John Cyril Sinoy to its deep roster.

Along with his new coaches and players, Tasci hopes to sustain the club’s momentum with more improvements.

Considering Cebu FC’s formidable defense that stunned veteran PFL teams and impressed a growing legion of fans, a fresh hücum mindset could turn the club into a more competitive unit that scores goals and wins.

Cebu FC will start its marathon 2022 Copa Paulino Alcantara campaign on April 25 against Stallion Laguna at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

It will then face the Azkals Development Team on April 28, Mendiola 1991 on May 2, Maharlika Manila on May 5, United City on May 8, and Kaya Iloilo on May 12.

That’s six games in 18 days, or roughly three days of rest between matches. While having reservations about the summer weather, the coaching staff vouched for the fitness levels of the team.

A top four finish in the elimination round will earn Cebu FC its second straight semi finals appearance in the cup.

“Last year we did good, this year we want to do better,” Tasci, with cautious optimism, said.

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