Kaya FC–Iloilo look to honor Iloilo legend in Copa Paulino Alcantara

FROM September to October, Kaya FC–Iloilo will have only one goal in mind: claiming the first ever Copa Paulino Alcantara.

Named after the Filipino-born Barcelona legend, the cup competition provides one last chance for glory in 2018, especially for the clubs that fell short in the recently concluded Philippines Football League.

The Copa Paulino Alcantara presents massive opportunities for all six clubs involved. As the inaugural edition of the tournament, this year’s champion will be a fixture in the history of Philippine club football.

For a team like Ceres Negros, that has monopolized the available silverware since the inception of professional football in the country, the chance to set yet another domestic record will undoubtedly be an appetizing proposition.

For the remaining five teams, the focus will not only be the opportunity to be etched in history, but perhaps more importantly, the chance to claim a first professional football title — one that comes with the highly coveted reward of qualification into the 2019 AFC Cup. It’s no secret that the Asian stage is where every player and coach in the top flight of Philippine football craves to play. And with Ceres having already secured the primary path to the competition, only one road remains.

For Kaya, however, as big as an incentive as AFC Cup football is, there’s more to the Copa Paulino Alcantara than just a ticket back (Kaya FC progressed to the knockout rounds of the AFC Cup in 2016) to the continental level.

With the Province of Iloilo now home to Kaya FC, the cup provides the club a unique opportunity to shine a light on a renowned sporting legend.

“It’s an honor to represent Iloilo in the Copa Paulino Alcantara,” said Kaya FC–Iloilo head coach Noel Marcaida. “We want to honor Paulino Alcantara, who was born in Iloilo.”

Drawn into Group B alongside JPV Marikina and Global Cebu, who both struggled in the league, Kaya FC–Iloilo have been tagged as early favorites to top the group — an assumption that Marcaida doesn’t necessarily share.

“It’s a new tournament. Whatever the result of the league, it doesn’t matter any more. Going into the cup, we’ll be playing against teams—especially Global FC—that will be completely different,” he said.

“The approach of Kaya in the cup is: no complacency. We have to approach every game with the intention to play to our full capacity.”

Given the high stakes and the fast-paced nature of the tournament, the Copa Paulino Alcantara is expected to toss up some mouthwatering spectacles for football fans across the nation.

“I think it’s great that this is the first time this is happening. As a player, it’s great to be a part of that,” said Kaya FC–Iloilo co-captain Miguel Tanton.

“I think all my teammates, and all the players from the different clubs are familiar with one another. And with this tournament format, friendships aside, everyone knows it’s do-or-die, so the concentration and the competitiveness is going to be there. I’m excited.”

Kaya open their Copa campaign on September 1 (Saturday) against Global Cebu. The 4pm match will be the opener at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, with Davao Aguilas and Ceres Negros closing the first day of action with a Group A encounter at 7pm. Both matches will be streamed live over PFLTV.ph.

“I’ve seen most of the teams here in the Philippines in my two weeks here, and I think Kaya is one of the best so far,” said newly installed Global coach Dragutin Stevic-Rankovic. “They have some great players, a big squad, and they play some exciting football. Our last meeting was a good one to watch and hopefully we can prepare for them. There’s lots of room for improvement with my players. The confidence will come in the next few weeks.” (www.kayafc.com)

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