Returning home with the championship trophy capped the long journey towards national recognition for Ceres-La Salle Football Club in the 2013 PFF-Smart National Club Championship. It was a storybook ending for a team that thrives on raw talents, discipline, and organization.
Unwrapping the complete package of a well-prepared game plan, good teamwork, disciplined players and a supportive management, the Bacolod City-based Ceres squad demolished Pasargard in the final match at Rizal Stadium in Manila to seal their victory in the tournament. Pasargad was the last barrier between the “Cinderella team” from Negros Occidental and the crown.
A mixture of homegrown talents, young Korean recruits, and visiting British players, Ceres captured the interest of national football as they systematically demolished, one by one, champion teams from the United Football League, the country’s only premiere tournament, en route to the championship.
Coming off big wins, first against Stallion (1-0), at home in Panaad pitch during the Round of 16, and against Global FC (1-0), in the quarterfinals, Ceres’ winning streak continued with a semifinal victory against Kaya FC. Pasargad was the last barrier between the Negros team and the crown.
“What we have is a team with players who has a big fighting heart and the right attitude to win the game,” assistant coach Ramon Janeo said.
After getting past UFL champions Stallion and Global, he said they kept on telling the players that the mission is not yet over. Winning the championship is the ultimate goal.
Mainly composed of varsity players from the University of St. La Salle, whose skills were honed in various school-based and inter-club tournaments in Bacolod City and nearby areas, Ceres has six Korean recruits – goalkeeper Jae Jun Hyoun, striker Byeong Jun Yoon, defenders Keon Hyeong Park and Hyung Min Sim, and midfielders Jung Mook Kim and Gun Hee Choi.
Playing their hearts out for the Ceres-La Salle team, Hyoun, Park, and Yoon’s efforts were recognized at the end of the tournament. The 17-year-old Hyoun received the Golden Glove award as best goalkeeper, Park as best defender, and Yoon as Most Valuable Player.
It also invited three Britons, striker Peter Long, defender Danny Claxton, and midfielder Daniel Sadoval, who were vacationing in Bacolod City, to play for the team during the knockout stages.
And there was Joshua Beloya, a national Under 23 standout and an Azkals campaigner, who was discovered by local coaches two years ago while playing with his friends at the Panaad pitch. A lethal striker known for his exploits inside the pitch, Beloya transformed himself into a solid central midfielder for the Ceres team. Along with his Korean teammaes, Beloya was cited in the tournament as best midfielder.
The foreign nationals strengthed the squad that is already brimming with talents, albeit unheralded, among them UFL players Jason Cordova (team captain) and keeper Michael Casas, Jason Panhay, Rolando Ian Treyes, Jemuel Ariola, J. Baguioro, Joel Bedia Jr., Lemuel Unabia, John Timothy Bolo, Richard Sumabong, Anthony Tongson, Jose Emmanuel Thomas Diel, Hanesin Prince Antony, Jaime Poderoso Jr., and Jemuel Ariola.
Head of the coaching staff is veteran coach Freddie “Nene” Lazarito with Ramon Janeo and former UFL player Ali Go assisting him.
THE GAME PLAN
After getting past Cebu and Leyte in the regionals held in San Carlos City, Ceres advanced to the knockout stages, facing Stallion in the Round of Sixteen, Global FC in the quarterfinals, and Kaya FC in the semis. Despite getting the toughest draw, they managed to get past the UFL teams barged into the final against Pasargad.
From being the tournament’s underdog, Ceres-La Salle attracted interest in national football and people started calling them the “Giant Slayer” and their journey in the tournament as a “Cinderella Run”. The coaches, however said, their players know their mission and each one has a big fighting heart. They were told to stick to the game plan and they delivered.
The team attributed their success to their cohesive teamwork and the unconditional support of their team managers, brothers Ricky and Leorey Yanson.
Coach Lazarito said the Yanson brothers nurtured the team from “infancy” up to where it is now, showing their unwavering commitment towards the development of football.
With this kind of support, Lazarito said he is confident that the Ceres-Lasalle Football Club will continue to win more championships for Bacolod City and Negros Occidental.*