By Joey Villar
MANILA, Philippines – The country's best club football teams get to test each other's mettle as they shoot to win the top purse worth P200,000 when the Phl Football Federation-Smart National Club Championship unfolds starting with cluster eliminations in Mindanao on Friday.
Four teams in Cluster One in West Mindanao will battle it out for group qualifiers spots from Aug. 22-24 at the JRMSU Sports Complex in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, while four more teams clash in Cluster Two in North Mindanao on the same dates set at the PFF Regional Football Center in Valencia, Bukidnon.
Patrick Gregorio, MVP Foundation Vice President and Smart Sports head consultant, on Tuesday said the primary aim of Smart in supporting this annual event is to discover and tap football talents from the provinces.
In fact, one of the products of this Smart-bankrolled event is Davao's Manny Aguinaldo, who is now a member of the Phl Azkals team after being part of a team that made it as far as the qualifiers.
"The main goal is to produce future national team members from the provinces, which is part of what the MVP Foundation and Smart are espousing," said Gregorio.
Smart Sports' senior manager Christopher John Quimpo, for his part, said this tournament will also give the younger players a chance to play against the country's top players suiting up for teams from the United Football League like Ceres-La Salle, Kaya, Loyola Meralco Sparks and Global.
"This is in line with the advocacy of our chairman Manny V. Pangilinan of promoting and developing sports in different regions of the country," said Quimpo. "The young guys will also get to play against some of country's top football players."
PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Castanes also graced the presser.
The event continues with Cluster Three and Four matches slated from Aug. 29-31 at the South Cotabato Sports Complex in Koronadal City and the Davao del Norte Sports and Cultural Center in Tagum.
There will also be cluster matches in the National Capital Region, North Luzon, Central Luzon and South Luzon.
Cluster winners will advance to the group qualifiers where they will tackle teams headed by last year's winners Ceres-La Salle Bacolod.
The top teams from the group qualifiers will then join UFL's top teams, Kaya, Meralco and Global late this year at the Rizal Memorial pitch.