by Josue Jamlang
The long wait for the restart of the United Football League officially ended on Saturday afternoon, as the opening of the second season took place at the impressive University of Makati stadium. Although the weather was threatening to ruin the event with heavy rains, the stands were packed with football enthusiasts, many of which were frothing for another half-a-year of Filipino football to look forward to.
Aside from the general anticipation for the long-awaited season, fans can anticipate more exciting clashes and intriguing match-ups, as the UFL have revealed six new clubs that will be competing this year (three of which will participate only in the Cup), with the aim of increasing the level of quality of play. Also, with Global Smartmatic and Union extremely busy during the off-season snapping up the best talents all over the country, this year’s Cup and League have all the signs of being even better than last year - and that’s no small feat, especially as the inaugural season was extremely successful.
Under the guidance of the Football Alliance, there has been little fear of a second year slump for the UFL, as the ambition to create a mass following for football remains as strong as ever in the group. With cable channel Balls agreeing to cover games and produce a weekly football show, the FA is showing its determination to reach out and expose as many Filipinos to the beauty of the most followed sport in the world.
Loyola ATR KimEng kicked off the LBC-UFL Cup in style on Saturday, coming from behind to defeat new boys Dolphins United 4-2. Two goals from JP Merida, and one each from Mark Madrona and youngster Gabi Borja were enough to ensure that efforts from Greg Calawood and Jarad Baron were nothing but consolations. Nomads and Green Archers Orient Freight were left frustrated on the day however, as the pitch was deemed unplayable after the first match, forcing officials to postpone their match to a later date.
Action continued with three matches on Sunday afternoon at Alabang Country Club (ACC), with the crowd getting their first taste of the new and improved Union FC. Lions and Sunken opened the day with a competitive goalless draw, while Union romped to a 6-0 victory over Mama Africa, and Laos FC held on to 2-1 win over fellow guest club Manila Sudanese Club.
The LBC-UFL Cup group stages continue next weekend, with three games in ACC and two games at Nomads Sports Club.