Wrapping up the 2012 UFL season

MANILA, Philippines - The 2012 United Football League (UFL) season ended on a high note last Tuesday night, June 25 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Global FC was crowned as champions for the first time in the short history of the club with a 1-1 draw vs Loyola Meralco Sparks with Kaya coming in 2nd tied at points only losing the title by goal difference.

It all started way back in January 2012, the opening of the biggest season of the UFL. I have been a part of the league since the beginning back in 2003 as a Kaya player ('03-'08), and Kaya coach ('08-'11).

But after all these years many things have changed.

A big tele contract to feature games live every week. Signing of foreign players (half-Filipinos) from all over the world to beef up line-ups and improve the level of the game locally. New venues to play in. More sponsors. And most importantly, more football fans.

There were 10 teams this year in the first division including top contenders Global, Kaya, Loyola and Air Force. Also seeing action in the division were the Green Archers, United and the other two armed forces teams Army and Navy, as well as newly promoted clubs Nomads, Stallion FC & Pasargad.

Global

Champions Global FC didn’t start the season strong.

They lost their opening game and two of the first 4 games due to injuries, suspension, national duties and others. But the team managed to turn the season around in the next couple of games with big wins over the top contenders.

They also lost their coach due to personal reasons and signed former longtime Air Force coach and Azkals last coach Edwin Cabalida. Global had a lot of signings in the beginning and mid-season when the transfer window opened: borthers Angel and Juan Luis Guirado, Carli de Murga, brothers Marvin and Marwin Angeles, Rob Gier and a couple more.

After the first half of the league Global stepped it up and finished strong with Izzu Elhabib scoring most of the goals (13) and the additions of Juan Guirado and de Murga who, in my opinion, was the MVP for Global this season.

Congratulaions, Global FC on your first UFL title.

Kaya

Favorites Kaya FC had an explosive start of the season, beating defending champions Air Force 1-0 in the opening game. They had an impressive regular season with only 2 losses, with most of their games won by 1 or 2 goals thanks to Nate Burkey and Eric Dagroh who scored most of their goals.

Kaya’s problems began before the mid-season break when team captain Aly Boromeo tore his ACL. Complications were compounded by coach Juan Cutillas' problems with his players which forced the former national coach to leave the team midway in the league.

Things eventually got better for Kaya, which had a couple of interesting signings in wonder boy Joshua Beloya fom the under-23 national team and winger Alu Kigbu (AK47). Kaya finished strong and had a good end of the season, but just not enough goals scored to beat Global.

Loyola Meralco Sparks

They were the crowd darlings from the get-go of the league after signing Azkals brothers Phil & James Younghusband. Loyola also signed Hartmann brothers Darren Mark & Matthew, ex-Kaya players Anton Gonzales and Alex Camara, as well as a number of Korean talents including their new Korean coach, Chul Su Kim.

The team failed to kick off the league firmly with an early and huge loss to newly promoted Stallion FC (4-1). They came back the next 2 games with 2 major wins over Global and Kaya, which translated into a good mid to end season run, but Loyola just didn’t finish as explosively as they began dropping 5 valuable points in the last 3 matches.

However the fire power showed by the team was impressive, with 64 goals total, and with the Younghusbands and Mark finishing in the top 5 scorers of the league.

Stallion Penson

The team was the Cinderella story of the tournament during the 1st half of the competition.

Having just been promoted to the first division of the UFL, Stallion FC started with a bang by defeating champions Air Force (4-1) and Loyola (4-1) with a quick passing game implemented by their Korean coach.

But inexperience caught up with the team, and Stallion just couldn’t keep up with the pace of the big 3 in the second half of the season. Composed mostly of local players from Bacolod and Koreans studying in the Philippines, their main player this season was Ruben Doctora who has been on fire, and has gotten a call back to the national team.

Pasargad

A two-time UFL champion and composed mostly of the Iranian community in Manila, Pasargad this year had new management and a new coach, as well as a former national player, Joel Villarino.

Pasargad had open tryouts as well so it was time to rebuild the team. They began the season on a low all throughout the first half of the season, but made major changes to their line dropping almost half of the team and signing new good talent which led them to a strong end of the season, even beating defending champions Air Force, 3-2.

Philippine Air Force Phoenix

Defending cup and league champions Air Force had a forgettable season, starting with a loss over Kaya (1-0) in the opening game of the league. The team also lost their long time coach Edwin Cablida months earlier and who eventually signed with Global FC. Perhaps the major problem of the squad however is their aging team and their Azkals superstar, Chieffy Caligdong, who just didn't deliver due to his injury.

Nomads Auction Manila

Nomads is the oldest club in the country, having been formed in 1914. They consist mostly of British expat players as well as Nich Severino, a former national team player.

Nomads got off to a good start of the league, becoming an early leader in the 2012 UFL season. The team was debilitated before the championship got on rolling however, after losing their top players, brothers Darren & Mark Hartmann to Loyola FC. Their best results were draws vs the top teams in the league.

Green Archers United Global

Made mostly of past La Salle players, Green Archers also added a couple of African players to their lineup in the past few years, with Shag Johnson as a regular in the starting 11.

The Archers are always a tough team to beat as seen in most of their games against the top clubs, which were generally close. The Green Archers were coached by Rodolfo Alicante and led on the field by Floriano Christian Pasilan, the top 3rd goal scorer in the league.

Philippine Navy Red Juice and Philippine Army Fritz and Macziol

Both teams had very disappointing seasons this year with only 4 wins between both sides Army (3) Navy (1).

Their disappointing performances may have been due to both aging squads and lack of new ideas when it comes to training and keeping up with the younger and stronger teams with more modern tactics.

Despite all this, Army still managed to include 3 players in the Azkals line up -- namely Roel Gener, Nestor Margarce Jr. and Eduardo Sacapano -- as well as veteran national team player Jef Lobaton.

As for Navy, their only win this season was against Pasargad. Despite finishing at the bottom last year, they were given the chance to play in the first division due to the league's move to increase the number of the league's clubs from 8 to 10. Sadly, the Navy didn’t appear to improve much from last season.

Significant changes

After all that’s been said and done, the 2012 UFL season, I would say, was an excellent one.

We’ve seen outstanding determination and grit from the teams and can only expect things to get better. The next tournament is expected to start by October with a cup-style competition just like the format in the Euro 2012, which includes the group stage then a knockout phase after the top teams from each group qualify.

The 2012 season has also been a leap forward from when I started in the UFL back in 2003.

We have better fields to play in now with Rizal and UMak, plus the new up and coming McKinley Hill field. The league now has sponsorships, live TV coverage of games every week, and of course, the Azkals have attracted a lot more fans to the beautiful game that we all love.

Above all, new players now look up to the UFL stars, inspiring young kids who one day will want to be a part of the league and the national team. - Rappler.com

Mikee Carrion was a Kaya player from 1998 – 2008, Kaya coach from 2008 – 2011, and the Assistant Coach of the newly formed Jeepney FC. He is also a huge Real Madrid fan.