By Jerome S. Galunan Jr.
With the postponement of the staging of this year’s Philippine Football Federation-Suzuki U23 Cup Visayas Regional Qualifying Round in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, defending champion NOFA-Ceres XI vows not to relax.
This was disclosed by team assistant coach Ramon Janeo, saying, that like they did last year, the squad had been undergoing training twice daily. “Since we have limited time left in our trainings, we focus more on tactical plays. Part of our plan is to gather our players, because some of them are in Manila,” he said.
“Sometimes it is also a problem for us when some of our players are unavailable because we cannot perfect some of our plays,” he added.
Janeo also admitted they cannot say they have the edge over their opponents. “This is because we know their strengths and weaknesses, and their game strategies as well. Though we beat some of these teams, we try not to be too confident. We believe that our opponents are strong too since they also reached this certain level,” he explained.
NOFA-Ceres is set to defend its national title by securing its position in the regional finals against Iloilo FA and Cebu FA.
Veteran tactician Freddie “Nene” Lazarito-mentored squad will have San Carlos star and NOFA-Ceres striker Gerardo Valmayor III, son of San Carlos City Mayor Gerardo Jr., alongside University of St. La Salle scorers Fil-Am Joshua Beloya and J Baguioro, and West Negros University’s Jimuel Arriola.
Also suiting up for the squad are defender Reymark “Buboy” Fernandez, reigning “best goal keeper” Robert Mendoza, second choice keeper Benito Rosalia, third keeper Jurex Replentes, skipper Jimmy Malalo-an, Florence Panogaling, Florence Agraviador, Anthony Tongson, George Balceda, Alan Alfaro, Neil Ryan Lirio, Norman Selotorio, Feb Beneminito Baya, Archie Familiar, Ramoniño Aledro, Kent Guevarra, John Vendell Marcellana, Joash Cabus, Bon Joevie Amanquiton, Chip Christian Robles, John Timothy Bolo, Abelardo Solinas, Michael Continedo, and Michael Cornel.
Joining Lazarito in the coaching task are assistants Janeo, Ali Rojas Go, Lemuel Unabia, goalkeeper coach Michael Casas, and team physician Dr. Emily Zerrudo.
Leo Rey Yanson is team manager.
According to Cyril Dofitas, head of the PFF Competition Department, in the regional matches, a double round-robin format will apply with the top two teams advancing to the final qualifying round in Cebu on May 20-25.
During this round, the other top two teams from Luzon and Mindanao will be joining the cast of six squads, which will be divided into two groups. The teams in each bracket will be playing in a double round-robin format to determine which top two teams from each group will advance in the semifinal matches, also in Cebu, on May 27-28.
In the semifinals, the top four squads will be playing in a home-and-away format while the top two teams after the semifinals will compete in the finals, still on a home-and-away format.
This event is bankrolled by San Carlos headed by Mayor Valmayor, Suzuki Philippines represented by its general manager Shuzo Hoshikura; Dick Emperado, chairman of the PFF Competitions Committee; NOFA secretary-general Paulline Javelona; and John Carmona, San Carlos City Football Club secretary-general./WDJ