MANILA (2 March 2011) – After a five-year hiatus, the Philippines Football Federation (PFF) will finally organise their first official league – the Smart National Clubs Championship in March.
Cyril Dofitas, the head of the PFF Competitions Department said that the competition “revives a national tournament that we have not had in a while.”
The last nationwide competition was the National Men’s Open Tournament held in Bacolod City five years ago under the presidency of Juan Miguel Romualdez although plans for a similar competition under previous PFF president Jose Mari Martinez – who succeeded Romualdez – did not push through for a variety of reasons.
“We can thank the new PFF leadership and also the great support Philippines football is now getting not just from Filipinos but also from other countries from all over the world,” said Dofitas.
The tournament, sponsored by telecommunications giant Smart, will kick off with the Provincial Qualifying Rounds this month as Member Associations (MAs) organize their own tournaments to determine their representative to the group stage.
Then, the single-round robin competition takes place from 1-16 April when football associations battle it out in the cluster qualifying rounds with one club to represent one MA only.
North, south and central Luzon: Baguio City, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, and Tarlac.
Southeast Luzon: Camarines Norte, Naga City-Camarines Sur, Legazpi City-Albay, Masbate and Oriental Mindoro.
North Mindanao: Butuan-Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Iligan-Lanao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte.
South Mindanao: Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao, and Davao del Norte.
Central Mindanao: Maguindanao-Cotobato City, North Cotobato, South Cotobato, and Sultan Kudarat.
West Mindanao: Misamis Oriental-Ozamiz, Zamboanga, Zamboanga del Norte-Dipolog, and Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian.
Then from April 1-30, clubs from the Visayas region (Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental) and the National Capital Region will compete immediately in the Regional Qualifying Rounds while waiting for the winners of the Luzon and Mindanao clusters.
The top four teams from the Luzon Cluster Qualifying Round, the top team from each of the Mindanao group clusters, and the top two club teams from NCR, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao winners will advance to the finals which will be played in Manila from 6-25 June.
“Right now we are looking to hold the finals in either the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium or the University of Makati,” clarified Dofitas.
Clubs may line up to five foreign players but only four can play on the field at any given time.