Villaflor: Colina and Kaya’s surprise

Noel Villaflor

SOME time late in November last year, a tweet circulated that Leylam FC, Cebu’s most dominant club in recent memory, was joining the Philippines Football League.

“It’s fake news,” the head coach of Leylam FC said when I asked him that time via Messenger about the tweet.

That head coach, of course, is Oliver “Bingbing” Colina, who, as you know by now, just took over the reins at Kaya FC Iloilo, one of the PFL’s biggest clubs. In a surprising turn of events, Colina -- not Leylam -- is the one “joining” the PFL.

Cebuanos would have wanted a homegrown club to represent them in the PFL, but that wasn’t to be. But Colina’s appointment as Kaya FC head coach is news that’s just as good.

Having a Cebuano rising through the coaching ranks should inspire the football community, especially the players and its coaches. Though only 37 years of age, Colina has an AFC “A” Coaching License, one of the few coaches in the Philippines with such a distinction. Right now, Colina is in the middle of preparations with Kaya in Luzon for its forthcoming Asian Football Confederation Cup encounter with Myanmar’s Shan United on Feb. 12. With the international match just days away, Colina has little time for this fulfillment of a dream to sink in.

But he is grateful for this new challenge.

“First of all, I want to thank God for this wonderful opportunity to be here,” Colina said, adding he is indebted to the Cebuano football community “for their all-out support.”

He also thanked Leylam FC, particularly club owners Gem and Ugur Tasci, and Ateneo de Cebu, specifically Fr. Manny Uy and Rico Navarro, for allowing him to take a leave of absence. Colina clarified that his contract with Kaya FC is only until May this year, depending on the situation.

“I have to return to Cebu as promised to my bosses,” he said.

Still, this is a huge move for Colina, and a logical one at that, considering his impressive credentials and coaching experience, which includes honing Under 13 and 14 Philippine National youth teams that exceeded expectations in international competitions.

With the looming AFC Cup match, Colina has hunkered down to work, as he familiarizes himself with the club and its players.

Joining Colina as one of the club’s new faces are goalkeeping coach Rolando Cabañiero Jr. of Quezon City, forward Roberto Corsame Jr. of Tondo, forward Daizo Horikoshi of Japan, center back Carlyle Mitchell of Trinidad and Tobago.

So, what is Colina’s first order of the day as Kaya head coach?

“Right now, we’re putting the club rules and regulations in place,” Colina said.

He has also reiterated among the players to respect one another and to always carry Kaya FC’s vision of the club being a brotherhood with an unbreakable can-do spirit.

And Colina has a message to all Kaya fans: “Please support our team and we will try our very best in this AFC Cup campaign.”