As the 2019 AFC Cup is already underway, not only does Ceres-Negros FC want to establish its presence in Asian football, they also want to bring Filipino fans much closer to the game itself.
The Busmen has had an auspicious start this year by winning their first game against Myanmar powerhouse Shan United, 3-2.
But what’s startling for the Negros-based squad is that only a handful of fans were in the venue, let alone those who follow regularly on television, and head coach Risto Vidakovic remains hopeful that things will change soon for the better.
For Vidakovic and the rest of the team, having jam-packed stadiums would inspire our players to play even better.
“I hope that some things will change, but we are still starting with the organization of the league with many teams. Sometimes we play games without crowds and we need the fans. We need full stadiums to grow. Quality-wise we have many good players in the league, but they need a little bit more. They miss the crowd and the fans. To grow, I think we need to put the people in the stadiums, and somebody has to watch them,” lamented Vidakovic.
“It’s a big competition here in the AFC Cup and it’s more exciting for the league since sometimes, there are many fans watching on television and the players get motivated to play in the league. It’s easier to motivate them also for those kinds of games and they like to play in the AFC Cup,” he added.
One of Ceres’ advocacies is to create a larger fanbase for Philippine football, and they believe that it starts by dispelling the notion that the game of football is only for the elite.
Such is the case for Cavite-native OJ Porteria, as he shared his humble beginnings in playing football with his brother. Along with his reiteration that anyone can play, he explained that fans should instead try to see every intricacy and strategy that goes with the game and that they shouldn’t worry too much at how many goals are scored.
For him, that is what makes football beautiful and rewarding at the same time.
“Yeah. Well, taga-Cavite ako and my brother is from Cavite [also]. We started playing soccer there and in America. I don’t think football is for the elite. I feel like that’s the perception here in the Philippines, but if you look all around the world there’s poor kids that are playing soccer. I think it’s the sport that you need limited resources, you just need a ball and that’s it. I just want to inspire everybody to play this game because it’s a beautiful game and you don’t need anything else but a ball,” said the young forward.
“I feel like people like basketball because it’s fast paced – there’s a lot of points scored when they shoot a basket. But that’s the beautiful thing about football, it’s all strategic – about 22 guys in the field running, working hard just to score a goal. That’s what makes the goal so rewarding because there’s a lot of effort put into scoring one single goal. If your whole team can work together as a team to just score that one goal and stop from conceding, and that’s a big reward. I think that’s what makes football beautiful,” Porteria further mentioned.
His sentiments were echoed by Curt Dizon, who plays midfielder for the Ceres-Negros FC. The 24-year-old has had stints playing for Crystal Palace in England and Gimnasta Segoviana in Segovia before coming back here to play for Global and Meralco Manila, before making his way to Ceres.
“Just come and watch the games for yourself. If I know that in general, we Filipinos like things fast paced and things like that but I recommend to go watch a game and see the atmosphere and you’ll fall in love with the sport. It’s just one of those things you have to be there and then you’ll witness for yourself. I hope to see many more fans in the games,” said Dizon.