Limpag: Global Cebu, Ceres Negros fly PHL’s flag high in AFC Cup

Mike T. Limpag

I REMEMBER in the early 2000, or was it the late 90s, reading about how one of the football teams of the AFP, which represented the country, got their breakfast, lunch and dinner handed to them in an international competition.

I’ve forgotten which of the AFP teams represented the country but the embarrassment of reading healthy scorelines for the opposition was something you won’t forget. Remember, the AFP teams were the best in the country at the time, owing to the presence of national team members in their ranks as enlisted personnel.

The AFP teams, of course, are no longer the elite clubs in the country, thanks to the United Football League, which gave clubs the chance to compete in a professional setting. The UFL is gone too, but its products, Global Cebu FC and Ceres Negros continue to set new standards in Philippine football.

And last Wednesday, what a glorius moment it was for the country’s fledging club football system as both Global Cebu and Ceres Negros won handily to keep their No. 1 positions in their groups in the AFC Cup.

Down 1-0 after the first half, Global Cebu scored four in the second, including three in the last eight minutes to beat Magwe, 4-2. Not to be outdone, Ceres Negros netted six times against Vietnam’s Hanoi FC, 6-2, its most impressive win since a 5-0 rout over the Tampine Rovers last March.

Global Cebu leads Group F with 12 points on a 4-1 record and its last match will be against Beoungket Angkor at “home” at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Global is still ironing out the kinks on its venue in Cebu, so Manila is still going to be the club’s home for next few weeks or so.

Still, if the club progresses through the knockout stages, perhaps Global Cebu can finally play in front of its home fans later this year and what a homecoming would that be.

On the other hand, Ceres Negros has, for years, set the standard for hometown support during its matches at the Panaad Park and Stadium, which turns into a sea of yellow every time the club plays.

Ceres Negros and Hanoi FC are both tied with eight points but the Bacolod club is ranked No. 1 because the competition uses head-to-head to break ties instead of goal difference.

And what’s the next big thing to seeing two Philippine clubs lead their group in the AFC Cup? Seeing these same two clubs take on each other in the maiden game of the Philippine Football League. Yes, Global Cebu and Ceres Negros will kick off the league next week.

I hope that’s going to be the start of a storied rivarly not only between the two clubs, but the two football communities. It may be the first time for Ceres Negros and Global Cebu to face each other in the PFL, but it’s certainly not the first time for a Cebu team and a Bacolod team to face each other. Who’s better between Bacolod and Cebu? It depends on who you ask.