Can top-flight PHL football thrive up north? Ilocos United FC is here to find out Published April 20, 2017 5:01pm By RYAN FENIX
When Australian A-League side Perth Glory played a local United Football League-select squad last July in Manila, there were approximately 500 people in attendance at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
But when the same Perth side took on the Azkals way up north in Quirino Stadium in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, there were reportedly 7,000 people packing the stands and catching the football action.
For Filipino-Australian tour promoter Jarred Kelly, the reception in Vigan was an unforgettable success story, and one that opened his eyes to the fact that football could indeed be brought successfully to the Ilocos region.
So when the Philippine Football Federation invited interested parties to submit expressions of intent for football franchises for the first ever Philippine Football League, Kelly took on the challenge and jumped on the chance.
Kelly, together with Sydney-based English businessman Tony Lazaro, submitted the requirements to the PFF, and Ilocos United Football Club was born.
Together, they had a vision.
“It was not just to build a team, but to take entertainment to the provinces,” Lazaro tells GMA News Online.
“It was to develop a co-partnership with the Ilocos tourism process to develop tourism in the area through football and through awareness.”
For them, the motivations to form a football club was appealing in many ways.
“First and foremost, it’s a blank page. And the appealing thing was, there was no baggage,” Lazaro says.
“Secondly, it’s the fact that I’ve been to Ilocos and the people and the province, they’re just simple and lovely human beings.
“They work hard and want to raise a family and what we’re gonna try and do is to create some local heroes for them, so they can aspire. For 90 minutes on a weekend, they can go and watch their heroes play. And I believe Ilocos United create heroes for them.”
Lazaro, who hails from Leeds in England, is himself a B licensed coach whose football playing career was cut short by an ACL injury.
He now runs the Rising Stars Sports Management in Sydney, a sports travel management firm that specializes in looking after travel logistics of high performance athletes, which may serve his team in good stead with the long travel to and from Vigan.
Former Perth Glory team manager and Malaysian side Kedah coach Ian Gillan has been tapped as head coach, and has been given three distinct directives by Lazaro.
“We have to survive the league and survive it by finishing in the top half. Our aim is to be in the 3-4-5 position. I think that’s very doable,” says Lazaro.
“(We hope) to develop the community relationship, so I want to have a coaching education program so by the end of this year, we would have established local academies throughout the province.
“And lastly, we need to find a 16-year-old local boy, and see if we can get him in our team which shows our youth development.”
For the last criteria at least, Gillan has delivered, with Ilocos United signing sixteen-year-old Filipino-American Nico Nazal.
On trial with Global and Loyola before signing with Ilocos, the 6’1” Nazal plays in the midfield and is one of the 21 players that the team has signed so far.
Former Loyola Sparks John Kanayama and Baba Sampana, former Ceres defender Val Kama and former Kaya midfielder Dominic del Rosario are among the notable names in their roster, as well as former Azkals U21 and Fil-Belgian Angelo Verheye Marasigan and veteran Anton del Rosario, who will come in as club captain.
“We’ve looked to try and find a balanced squad with some experience, certainly with youth,” explains Lazaro.
“We have no marquee players, we have no prima donnas, we have no superstars, we just have a bunch of players that have come together to form a very, very strong bond.
For some teams who see new boys Ilocos United as an automatic victory, Lazaro has a word of warning.
“The challenge of the other teams is not to beat us skillfully, the challenge for the other teams will be to break our spirit, and I think that that’s a big challenge.”
Cost play a big part in running a club in the PFL, but Ilocos United sees beyond the current balance sheets.
“There’s no money in running a football team. There’s only the ability to engage with the community, with businesses, and with commercial opportunities," says Lazro
“Where we are quite successful is, we have very, very strong commercial opportunities and commercial alliances and that’s what’s helping.
Ilocos United Football Club has today decided to withdraw from the Philippines Football League (PFL) for the 2018 season.
Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful. Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL. Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.
The Club, our players, coaches, staff, and management, wish to extend our deepest gratitude to our supporter base around the country for its fervent and unwavering support throughout our 2017 campaign. We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.
In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.
We wish the PFL continued growth and urge that the nation joins us in continuing to support the development of the beautiful game in the Philippines.
Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and updates from IUFC.
BoyBacolod: If some UAAP or NCAA schools will join the new league in one form or another, it may remove the gap between U22s and seniors. The schools can devise a system akin to sports academies, education is important after all.
Feb 28, 2019 18:16:35 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Will the PFL be like the San Marino league system, where there are no so-called "home" stadiums.
Mar 2, 2019 12:39:19 GMT 8
leoisiah: Gibraltar also has a single stadium for their league.
Mar 12, 2019 8:27:57 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Rules are rules are rules. The two clubs should have known better. They are given loads of time to act on it. And to those who say PFF sucks, sometimes they do but one thing they are consistent is sticking to the rules.
Mar 25, 2019 10:42:16 GMT 8
truman: Agree @boybacolod
Mar 25, 2019 14:49:21 GMT 8
truman: lowkey cringe sa conyoness ng PPL FB page.
Apr 8, 2019 10:11:23 GMT 8
truman: sad day for philippine football
Apr 27, 2019 13:22:38 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Why I like UAAP football, no more extra games for seeding.Makes me think about European efficiency. Wish gayahin din sa basketball (very sketchy tiebreakers), like Euroleague.
May 8, 2019 14:02:35 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Negros Occidental footy fans, expect more football this 2019, now that a San Carlos native is governor.
May 14, 2019 2:05:22 GMT 8
Jun 9, 2019 18:39:47 GMT 8
@BoyBacolod: Hamak na mungkahi lang. Mabuti siguro kung maipromote ulit ang larong sipa. Daming maling sa sipa na mga bata, mabuting transistion for futsal, kung hindi regular football. Parang sa Thailand, sepak takraw, o chinlone sa Myanmar.
Jul 24, 2019 19:12:53 GMT 8
bluedevil2k8: guys please support the across the line podcast
Sept 16, 2019 19:18:16 GMT 8
papajamba: listening now to simone rota - across the line podcast
Sept 16, 2019 23:48:32 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: As long as Ricky Yanson is professional to Ceres FC and extends support to the Azkals in general (Ceres Azkals in particular) during home games, he can be PFF president in my book. Much better will be reconciling with Leo, though that idea is Farfetch'd.
Sept 21, 2019 23:07:36 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: Kaya fans wishing that Ricky Yanson wins the PFF presidency is akin to GMA fans wishing that Congress and President Duterte will not renew ABS-CBN's franchise.
Oct 24, 2019 21:10:39 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: We will wait for the basketball and volleyball ASEAN teams and then we compare their reception to that given to the football delegations, where ALL ASEAN nations participate. Now there will be foreign scrutiny in every move of PHISGOC.
Nov 24, 2019 23:20:26 GMT 8
BoyBacolod: DDS trolls underestimated the SEA football community. Having no prior exposure to football culture, they dismiss any and all so-called sabotages as destabilization plots, to the point that they do not support the teams, especially the women.
Nov 27, 2019 15:25:36 GMT 8
Passerby: That's awkwardly worded.
Mar 6, 2020 21:09:41 GMT 8
Jun 3, 2020 11:29:52 GMT 8
nil: anyone have any ADT FC's contact?
Jun 3, 2020 11:30:08 GMT 8