Ceres-La Salle FC, led by the ever delightful Stephan Schrock, and Global FC, bannered by livewire Misagh Bahadoran and Daisuke Sato, both have barged into the quarterfinals of the 2016 Singapore Cup in the Lion City.
Bacolod City-based Ceres-La Salle beat the Garena Young Lions from Singapore, 3-1, and Global FC, based in Metro Manila, blanked Nagaworld of Cambodia, 5-0, at the Jalan Besar Stadium a few days ago.
The resounding victories of two of the top football teams in the Philippines will have boosted their stock among Filipino fans and maybe Southeast Asian fans who are crazy about the beautiful game the way most Filipinos are about Stephen Curry and the NBA.
One reason is that the annual Singapore Cup is a by-invitation-only club tournament, which in this year’s edition, features eight other teams from Brunei Darussalam (Brunei DPMM) and seven more from the host country (Albirex Niigata, Geylang, Warriors, Balestier Khalsa, Home United, Hougang United and Tampines Rovers).
Another is that until the Philippine Azkals came along as the national team, local football squads were seen as losers even at the lowest level of regional (Southeast Asian or Asian) competition.
Those were the days, and thanks to the likes of Schrock (Filipino-German), Bahadoran (Filipino-Iranian) and Sato (of Japanese heritage but who grew up in Davao City and, lately, the other homegrown and unhyphenated Amani Aguinaldo and Mario “OJ” Clarino, to name a few, the Philippines is no longer a laughing stock in Asian football (the Azkals several weeks ago shamed two-time World Cup participant North Korea, 3-2, in a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia).
Not even the elimination of the Azkals from further World Cup play dampened the positive vibe from the first-ever triumph of a Philippine national team against a much more highly-rated counterpart from Asia.
Global FC, United Football League champion, will face fancied Tampines Rovers in July in a two-legged quarterfinal clash.
The latest international win for Ceres-La Salle will probably have restored confidence in a team that this month lost a heartbreaker to South China AA, 1-0, in the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, the second-highest level of club competition among teams from the continent after the Asian Cup.
Ceres-La Salle FC and another top local team, Kaya, fell in the knockout stage of this year’s AFC Cup to defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia FC, 7-2.
It is evident from recent, if moderate, successes in the international arena that Philippine football is headed in the right direction and the more invitations are received by Ceres-La Salle or Global FC mean that the beautiful game has indeed arrived in the Philippines.
Remember that Leicester City won its first Premier League title after many decades of heartaches against teams that had the money and other resources with which to bank on for a fighting chance to be crowned champions.