Global FC aims for the big leagues of Asia
Global vs Tampines Rovers
AFC Champions League Qualifier
7:30 pm Tuesday, January 24
Rizal Memorial Football Stadium
Tickets priced at P50, P100 and P120
available at the gate or at SM Tickets outlets
Misagh Bahadoran is an Azkal who is also the focal point of Global attack. But last Thursday at training in BGC, the striker was excitedly talking about his sideline, the dental office he is setting up in Centuria Mall in Makati.
The Centro Escolar University dentistry graduate, who already has a license to practice in Iran, hopes his 3-dental chair investment pays dividends.
“I want to specialize in athletes,” says Bahadoran. According to the footballer/entrepreneur athletes have special dental needs, like mouthguards.
But it's in his day job where Misagh and Global are looking to sink their teeth into a golden opportunity.
Global and other Filipino squads like Kaya and Ceres have played in the AFC Cup, the second tier of international club competition in Asia. But Global is trying to be the first to sit at the grown-ups table, the AFC Champions League, where the best sides from Asian powerhouses like Japan, Korea, Australian, and the Middle East do battle.
The Filipino club faces a daunting task to reach round-robin Group E, where Muangthong United of Thailand and Japanese club Kashima Antlers await. (Korean club Ulsan Hyundai will likely be the other team in that group.)
If Global hurdles Singapore's Tampines Rovers on Tuesday, they jet off Down Under to tangle with Australian A-League team Brisbane Roar on January 31. If the Pinoys dismiss the Roar then it's a final playoff against Chinese Super League team Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, who feature ex-Man City and Juventus striker Carlos Tevez of Argentina.
Should Global stumble at any of these hurdles, they will drop back into the AFC Cup, where they are drawn with JDT of Malaysia, Magwe of Myanmar, and either Boeung Ket Angkor of Cambodia or Laotian club Lao Toyota. But should Global win all 3 games and reach the AFC Champions League, UFL third-placer Loyola will take Global's place in the AFC Cup.
New foreign signings
This is a difficult gauntlet for Global to run through, but the Dan Palami-managed team is doing what it can to beef up its roster.
Present at Thursday's roster were several new foreign players (The AFC Champions League, like the AFC Cup, allows teams to have 4 foreigners in the roster and on the pitch, one of which must be from an AFC country). Brazilian centerback Rafael Dumas, on loan from Flamengo, had his first training session with the team. Dumas, who bears a striking resemblance to LeBron James, is a 21-year old who has also been loaned previously to Goa in the Indian top tier.
Shu Sasaki is another new signing bristling with promise. The Japanese-born striker has been playing in Australia's New South Wales Premier League side Blacktown Spartans.
“He just keeps on going and doesn't give up,” says Eli Elhindi, an Australian football fan who was observing training last Thursday (On a side note, Elhindi's son, Patrick, who has a Philippine passport thanks to his Davaoeña mother, is also trialing in PFL clubs).
Sasaki's work rate isn't his only virtue. Both Elhindi and Jon Kanayama, another Fil-Aussie who is back training with Global after a stint with Loyola, say that Sasaki has terrorized the NSW Premier League as one of its most feared strikers, especially two seasons ago.
Sasaki's erstwhile Spartans teammate Yianni Perkatis was also at training. The Aussie centerback has top-tier A-League experience with Western Sydney Wanderers.
There were a few other foreigners at training like Trinidadian Darryl Roberts. Global can only get four foreigners for their AFC CL roster, and Sasaki and Perkatis, who hail from AFC countries, are likely to be favorites to make the cut.
Global's other Filipino stalwarts like Bahadoran, Amani Aguinaldo, Dennis Villanueva, Matt Hartmann, Patrick Deyto, Hikaru Minegishi, Paolo Bugas, Paolo Salenga, Marco Casambre, and Jerry Barbaso are good to go and looked fit in training. Global have also roped in two players from Green Archers United Globe, Ronnie Aguisanda and Dodong Villareal. Paul Mulders, who briefly played for Global before suiting up for Ceres, is back in yellow-and blue for 2017.
The main concern now with Global is in the coaching staff. Since the manager's chair in Global has been a revolving door recently, assistant Marjo Allado ran Thursday's training.
Global began last season with Scot Leigh Manson in charge. Then near the end of the season Englishman John Burridge replaced Manson. But due to an apparent lack of a necessary coaching badge, Burridge departed and in came Kenichi Yatsuhashi. But the Yatsuhashi era lasted all of ten days, and the Japanese-American is out and in his place is another veteran Japanese mentor, Toshiaki Imai, the former coach of the Mongolian and Chinese Taipei national teams. Imai was not at training on Thursday but will handle all the sessions leading up to Tuesday's game.
Imai, not to be confused with Masataka Imai, who coached the Philippines in 2001, is 62 years old and has a Japan Football Association “S” coaching license, which is reportedly equivalent to the AFC Pro badge that is a prerequisite for being a head coach at the AFC Champions league. (An AFC “A” license, what Allado possesses, is the minimum to coach in the AFC Cup.)
A difficult opponent.
The new coach will match wits with a Tampines Rovers team that played Global in the quarters of the Singapore Cup last year. In the first leg of that series the Stags won 3-1. In the second leg Minegishi scored in the 21st to pull a goal back on aggregate but Global suffered a blow when Omid Nazari was sent off. Rovers then found the back of the net twice to seal a 5-1 aggregate win.
The Stags finished second in the Singapore league to Albirex Niigata's farm team. Since Albirex is a Japanese developmental squad, they are not eligible to play in the AFCCL through Singapore.
Tampines no longer feature ex- Premiership star Jermaine Pennant, since he has signed with English third-tier club Bury FC. Tampines do have veteran Singapore internationalists Darren Bennett and Mustafic Fahruddin, as well as the undersized but highly-rated keeper Izwan Mahbud. Ex-Ceres defender Son Yong Chan of Korea will likely suit up for the Singaporeans. Son presumably impressed Tampines last year when the busmen played them in the group, drawing them in Singapore and beating them in Bacolod.
There will be no TV broadcast for the game, so fans have to troop to Rizal Memorial to watch. Although Global will represent Cebu in the upcoming Philippines Football League, they will play home games in RMS while they sort out their stadium situation in the Queen City.
Global may be an underdog in this long and arduous trek to the big league. But this team, both Cup and League champs last year, is used to winning, and Rizal Memorial just might be an inhospitable place for the visitors on Tuesday. – Rappler.com
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.