UNITED City FC and Kaya FC may not have advanced to the knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League earlier this month, yet their historic participation in the prestigious tournament ought to be reason enough to bolster interest and development of club football in the country.
The performances of the top two Philippine Football League clubs were noteworthy, even as both had to endure lopsided losses at the onset. But it must be pointed out that both clubs were quick to adjust at the highest level of club football in Asia.
United City can even boast of a historic draw (1-1) and win (3-2) both at the expense of Chinese club Beijing Guoan, while losing its other four matches to regional heavyweights Daegu FC of Korea (7-0 and 4-0) and Kawasaki Frontale of Japan (8-0 and 2-0).
Kaya, on the other hand, didn’t log a single win or draw, losing heavily to Thailand’s BG Pathum United (4-1), Vietnam’s Viettel FC (5-0) and Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai FC (3-0) in the first round of the double round robin group stage tournament.
But what offers a hint of promise for Kaya is that in the second round matchups, the club’s competitiveness went up several notches to the surprise of its far stronger opponents who could only manage single-digit wins this time around.
To say that Kaya was a quick learner is an understatement, considering the second round results: 1-2 vs. Ulsan, 0-1 vs. Pathum, and 0-1 vs. Viettel.
That said, there’s no doubt Kaya FC and United City are capable of closing the gap between them and Asia’s elite clubs.
Momentum is on the side of Philippine club football, and the two PFL clubs, as the country’s best, can only get better as they learn from their mistakes and know what is demanded of them at the highest level.
Unfortunately, there is a risk of losing such momentum because, as I am writing this piece, there is no word yet as to when the 2021 PFL would kick off.
Both the website and social media page of the Philippine Football Federation say nothing about the tournament, which serves as the basis for international club football qualification.
The year is now in its second half, so not holding the PFL would be unthinkable, not to mention its repercussions such as the further waning of the public’s interest in the sport.
This is the worst time to leave fans guessing about the PFL and its fate, so for the love of the sport, PFF, say something.