What do you do when 3 giants are standing in your way? Get in a bus and just drive through them to get where you're going. That's what Negros based Ceres FC basically did on its way to the finals of the 2nd PFF-Smart Men's National Club Championship where they will face UFL Division 1 club Pasargad FC or PSG.
The 3 giants Ceres needed to get through to earn a finals slot are among the 3 top UFL Division 1 Clubs: current UFL Cup champions Stallion FC, current UFL champions Global FC and powerhouse Kaya FC. A feat that caused the Ceres FC squad's achievements to be dubbed as a "Cinderella" run to the finals. One reason perhaps this glorious run to the finals of the club is being described as such is the fact that Ceres FC is not a club that competes in either Divisions of the Metro Manila based United Football League, now considered the country's premiere football league. But is it really?
True, beating the top 3 UFL clubs enroute to the finals is no mean and easy feat. Then again, let's consider a few facts. Ceres FC is based in Negros Occidental, a hotbed of football in this country. Before the advent of the 2010 Azkals and the renaissance of football in the Philippines, Negros and Iloilo have kept faith all these years. The rivalry of these 2 provinces will attest to the fact on how seriously the sport is considered. One only has to look at how many accomplished football players come from these 2 provinces. It shouldn't be surprising then that a team from Negros should be able to field a strong and competitive squad.
One only needs to look at Stallions FC, considered to be the "Iloilo" team given the roots of the club. Its maiden run in UFL Division 1 showed it was a force to be reckoned with. A strong showing in the regular UFL season was followed up by winning the UFL Cup.
Ceres FC is no different. They may not be competing in the UFL, but they are based in a province where there is an environment that provides competitive football and a deep talent pool to recruit from. More than that, Ceres FC is run in much similar ways as the top clubs in the country today. It isn't just a team put together for the purpose of this tournament; it is a club with a vision,infrastructure and adequate management support.
Credit for that goes to the Yanson brothers, Leo Rey and Ricky. Both former players and passionate fans of the sport of football. Like Dan Palami, they have tapped their personal fortune in the transport business (hence the bus metaphor in the opening paragraph) to grow and develop the sport of football in Negros. They are the driving force behind NFL, the Negros Football League and they even went as far as having football fields constructed. Players and coaching staff for the club and their NFL teams are well taken care of and supported. Lest it be forgotten, the U-23 squad of Ceres FC is also the defending champion of the PFF-Suzuki U-23 National Club Championship.
Considering all those factors, I don't think Ceres FC's giant-killing run to the finals is all that surprising. They have shown without doubt that they have what it takes to play with the big boys. They are a force to be reckoned with and they just made an emphatic statement to that effect, not only for the club but for Negros football.
It still remains to be seen if Ceres FC will join the UFL. As seen in the results of this tournament so far, they will be a good addition to the league. They have a talented and quite young squad, with a very capable coaching staff. More than that, it will give us Negrenses a team to root for in the UFL. Something the marketing people of UFL should consider. Of course, it will all depend on the Yanson brothers. In the same way they built up their club, I'm sure they will be taking deliberate and measured steps when considering this option. One thing for sure, when the time comes that Ceres FC does indeed join the UFL, they will be ready and raring to succeed.