By Jerome S. Galunan Jr.
The impressive performance displayed by the Negros Occidental Football Association-Ceres La Salle team in the 2013 PFF-Suzuki U23 National Cup, beating Davao FA, 1-nil, in the finals held in Dumaguete May 30 prompted the management of the Philippine Football Federation to invite nine Negrense standouts.
This was disclosed by NOFA-Ceres head coach Ali Go, saying that 2011 Azkals U23 mainstays forwards Joshua Beloya and Gerardo Valmayor III, and defender Reymark Fernandez lead those invited to join the national squad.
The others are team skipper Jimmy Malalo-an, Timothy Bolo, Anthony Tongson, J Baguioro, Prince Antony, and Jimuel Ariola.
During the 2013 PFF-Suzuki U23 National Cup finals against Davao FA, Beloya was named the “most valuable player” aside from being the “best midfielder” and one of the three “best strikers” in the tournament having had four goals.
Moreover, Beloya is likewise best remembered during the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia when he struck a late double to give the Philippines’ 2-1 win over Laos at the Lebak Bulus Stadium.
The national team was downed 1-nil before Beloya nailed two quick goals in the 90th and 90+3 minutes to seal the victory.
Tongson, on the other hand, was named “best defender” of the recent 2013 PFF-Suzuki U23 National Cup.
Earlier, PFF Department head Cyril Dofitas said that during the said PFF-Suzuki tournament, they able to scout many young players who really excelled in the field. He noted that some of them are from Mindanao areas.
He stressed that through the PFF-Suzuki competition, they able to squeeze out Filipino talents from the grassroots, by which he is looking forward to see the young blood playing for the national team.
On the other hand, a NOFA-Ceres La Salle U22 – Azkals U23 match is in the offing, according to Negrense head coach Go. “We are trying to fix that match. We are willing to play with the Azkals U23 if PFF wants it. It’s up for them,” he said.
If pushed through, this will be a good opportunity for the national squad to gauge the level of their preparation as well as provide avenue for the national team players to gel./