30 July 2017


Singapore: Iain Ramsay has set his sights on winning the 2017 AFC Cup ahead of Ceres Negros’ clash with Singapore’s Home United in the ASEAN Zonal Final first leg at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
The side from the Philippines were one of the success stories of the Group Stage, advancing to the first knockout round as the tournament’s joint-leading scorers.
Ceres then ousted regional giants and 2015 winners Johor Darul Ta’zim on away goals to book a date with Home, who overcame Filipino opposition in Global FC to continue their own impressive run in the competition.
Midfielder Ramsay, who made his debut for the Philippines in 2015, is in his first season with Ceres and has been an ever-present as The Busmen have produced the country’s best-ever performance in the competition in scintillating fashion.
“Just making this [Zonal] final was a big step for Philippines football,” said Ramsay. “We know what’s at stake and we now want to come through this game. If we can go all the way it would be massive.
“[Home] are a very attack-minded team so it’ll definitely be a tough game, but we’re confident in our playing group and what we can do and I think we’ve done remarkably well, which gives us confidence going into this game.
“We’re a compact team but when we go forward, we have individuals who click together nicely, especially in the attacking third, and you’ve seen so far that we’ve scored a number of goals.”
Twenty in just eight games to be exact, as the 4-4 aggregate draw with Johor in the previous roundadded to the 16 scored in the Group Stage.
The last time Ceres visited Singapore, in May, they ran out impressive 4-2 winners over Tampines Roversto seal top spot in Group G, while they also defeated the Singaporeans 5-0 in Bacolod City in a game which saw Ramsay open the scoring with a stunning 20-yard effort.
But their progression to the knockout round was far from straightforward as anything other than victory over Tampines would have seen Hanoi FC advance at their expense.
“We were in the group of death but we took each game as it came, worked hard and it paid off,” added Ramsay.
“We’ll do the same against Home United, not under-estimate them as they’re a strong side, but we’re sure we can do the job.
“We’re not too far off from going all the way so we’ll hold on to the dream. We’re right up there with the teams we’ve come up against, but it’s a crazy competition and anyone can beat anyone.”
Born in Australia to a Scottish father and Filipino mother, Ramsay signed on professionally with Scottish side Gretna in 2006, before embarking on a career that has seen him travel the globe.
He returned to Australia in 2008 – appearing for Sydney FC, Sydney Olympic, Adelaide United and Melbourne City – then headed west once more in 2015, this time to join Iranian side Tractorsazi Tabriz.
Ceres came calling at the beginning of 2017 and, having played alongside a number of his teammates at international level, Ramsay has fitted seamlessly into his new side.
“I took a huge step leaving Australia when I was 17 and trying to make it in Scotland, and I have happy memories from there,” said the midfielder.
“Iran was also a massive experience and I was really enjoying it there; I adapted to life and got used to the culture, but things changed after a change of manager halfway through the season.

“In 2015, I made my debut for the national team and a few clubs had been in contact with me since then so I knew I’d eventually move to the Philippines.
“I thought it would be later in my career, but so far so good and I definitely don't regret it. I’m lucky to be playing at Ceres and these are exciting times.”
Ceres are now just two games away from the Inter Zone Semi-finals, where 2015 runners-up FC Istiklol of Tajikistan lie in wait.
Asked if the side from the Philippines can go on and win the competition, Ramsay’s answer is swift: “Why not?”

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