By Jerome S. Galunan Jr.
As defending titlist of the PFF-Smart Club National Championships, the Negros Occidental Football Association strongly bids to host the tournament’s national finals next month.
This was disclosed by NOFA secretary-general Paulline Javelona, who was then with PFF competitions department head Cyril Dofitas, right after the Azkals’ victory over Pakistan Tuesday night.
Javelona said that granting the rights to the provincial football association will further help in the promotion of the sports in Negros Occidental, which is considered as one of the top seedbeds of local but highly-competitive booters.
During the recent Group F qualifying, reigning tournament MVP Byeong Jun Yoon nailed NOFA – Ceres FC’s lone goal from 10 yards in the 44th minute to survive from regional archrival Camella-Barotac Nuevo FC of Iloilo, and a ticket to the next round of the tournament on November 8.
With both clubs playing tough and often physical, strikers had the difficulty to find clear targets on goal – most of the shots hit the cross bar.
Champion coach Ali Go said they felt relieved after they finally entered the Final Qualifying Round of the tournament. “We are the defending champion and it would be shameful if we can’t make it. And I’m thankful that we made it,” he said.
“Admittedly, Iloilo is also a strong team. And though our plays worked but the boys unable to complete their shots,” he added.
“We now advance to the next stage and we’ll put these games behind us. We look forward for the next round. We need to practice more on our targets so that we can finish our attacks better,” Go stressed.
Meanwhile, when asked if they felt threatened by the Iloilo attacks, Go said that although they feel confident to win the match, “I was disappointed in the last 10 minutes of play as my wards became complacent.”
In the Final Round, Go see Davao as a strong contingent from Mindanao, Cebu in the Visayas and Laguna in Luzon. “These teams have good representatives. They might go out strong in the next stage,” he said.
The Negros Occidental-based club also blanked Azukals FC of NORFA, 9-nil.
Jimuel Ariola led Ceres with three goals (1st, 29th and 31st minutes) while Yoon delivered in the 29th minute as Jalsor Soriano closed the half with a goal in the 43rd minute.
In the second half, Jason Cordova added two goals in the 64th and 74th minutes as Jaime Poderoso nailed two more in the 84th and 87th minutes to seal the win.
Composing the Ceres FC side are tournament’s “best goalkeeper” Korean Hyoun Jaehun and Louie Michael Casas; defenders Geunh Yeong Park and Hyungmin Sim from South Korea, Angelo Marasigan, Cordova, Camelo Tacusalme, Anthony Tongson, Soriano, Lemuel Unabia, Richard Ruiz Sumabong, Jimmy Malalo-an Jr., John Timothy Bolo, Jose Emmanuel Thomas Diel; midfielders Olapido Babasola Okunaiya from United Kingdom, Jayson Panhay, Hanesin Prince Antony, Carlo Tacusalme, Joel Bedia Jr., Rolando Ian Treyes and J Baguioro; Yoon, ‘best midfielder’ Joshua Beloya, Poderoso and Ariola.
Joining Go in the sideline is assistant coach Cha Soung Yooung from South Korea and physical therapist Augustine Rey Rivas while team manager is Leo Rey Yanson./