UFL Charity Cup has become what it should be: a cup for youth development.

Loyola-Kaya. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

 

I took in the very entertaining match on Saturday between Loyola and Kaya at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. It was game one of the two-legged semifinal between the two squads. With Kaya coming out on top 4-3, there were obviously plenty of fireworks. But in a sense, the score is far less important than what this competition can offer to Philippine football.

Loyola fielded a side with a definite FEU flavor to it. Starting for Vince Santos were Paolo Bugas, Nano Amita, Chy Villasenor, and Val Jurao. Reymart Cubon also came on as a substitute.

Kaya put their future in the defense, with youth players Emilio Pelaez in central defense and Nocnoc Cruz at left back. Rocky Plaza, Nino Herrera, and Paeng Siggaoat, three more youngsters, also saw action.

What I love about this competition is that the teams are bringing in their kids to play alongside the senior players. And I believe they are doing so voluntarily and not because of the prompting of the league. Playing young players against each other is good, but playing them beside more experienced guys is excellent because the youngsters will learn so much.

But the scoresheet was the domain of the kuyas, as senior players scored all seven goals. Kaya sprinted ahead with two strikes from Thomas Taylor. Phil Younghusband had been graciously sharing the ball around with Bugas, Amita, et al, but just before the half, seemed to say “enough of this Junior Varsity business, I am scoring a goal because we need one” by stroking in a shot past Nick O’Donnell. He barely celebrated.

Simon Greatwich and James Younghusband assisted on each others goals as the Sparks went ahead 3-2. But Taylor completed his hat trick and Masanari Omura, on for Pelaez, got the late winner.

There was some controversy as well. Kaya’s coach for this tournament, Chris Greatwich, got sent off after some strong words against the referee, Jimmy Liman. Taylor and James exchanged unpleasantries after the Spark veteran appeared to have absorbed a wayward hand or fist from the Aussie. Both got into the referee’s book.

Match two of the aggregate-goals series is on Tuesday at 4:45 pm with a delayed telecast on Wednesday. The winner of the series advances to the final match on July 26 in Rizal Memorial.

There was a decent crowd in Rizal Memorial, and we hope there will be something similar on the subsequent game days.

Oh and the winner’s purse of P100,000 will go to a charity of choice of the winning side.

From the big pitch, to the youth development, to the charity aspect, this is one competition that has plenty of upsides.

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