Copa Paulino Alcantara kicks off this weekend

LOCAL football action is back this weekend with the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) kicking off its national cup competition — the Copa Paulino Alcantara — this weekend.

Set at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite, the tournament, named after Filipino football legend Paulino Alcantara, starts on Nov. 7 and ushers in the Philippines Football League’s (PFL) 2022 season.

It also marks the return of football competition in the country after a year since the PFL staged its “bubble” tournament in 2020.

“The staging of the Cup is PFF’s commitment to provide a proper and intense football competition, and livelihood to all stakeholders, particularly the players and officials,” said PFF general secretary Edwin Gastanes in a statement of the tournament which is taking the place of the league competition for the time being because of the pandemic.

The PFF, however, assured that the 2022 PFL season will push through in the first quarter next year.

The Cup was originally set to see six clubs competing until reigning PFL champion United City Football Club pulled out this week.

League Commissioner Coco Torre said the Copa will still push through with five clubs, namely: Stallion Laguna FC, Dynamic Herb Cebu FC, Kaya FC-Iloilo, Mendiola FC 1991, and the Azkals Development Team (ADT).

United City was supposed to play in Group A along with the Stallions and newcomer Dynamic Herb. The development leaves Stallion and Cebu as the remaining clubs that will contest the top seeding in the group for the crossover semifinals.

Playing in Group B are Kaya, Mendiola, and ADT.

In staging the Copa, to be held under a closed-circuit biomedical bubble, organizers are making sure they comply with the Department of Health-Philippine Sports Commission-Games and Amusements Board Joint Administrative Order 2021-0002, including requiring clubs to arrange their own accommodation with provisions for health and safety protocols while inside their respective bubbles.

They, too, are hoping the tournament will reinvigorate the domestic football scene greatly affected by the pandemic.

“The Copa is a viable competition for clubs to remain physically and mentally active during these trying times while adhering to the health and safety protocols,” said Mr. Torre. “The competition will provide healthy and compelling rivalries and at the same time will determine clubs’ performance on sporting merit.” — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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