UFL Preview: Philippine Army's Last Stand
MANILA, Philippines – For several years now, there has only been one theme for the Philippine Army in the UFL: battling for survival.
In 2013, they dodged a huge bullet when they avoided relegation to Division II by beating Union Internacional in a playoff. Once included among the glamour teams of the UFL, Army was not able to keep up with the changes that happened throughout the league’s landscape. Over the past two years, they have finished 9th twice in a league of ten squads.
As the only remaining armed forces team in the UFL’s top flight, Army will be bent to salvage some pride for the once mighty triumvirate in the Philippine football scene. Once upon a time, the team, along with Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy, were the ones battling for titles on the local football scene. They were the Kayas, the Loyolas, the Stallions and the Globals of yesteryears.
Barely three years after placing third in the League, Army will once again enter the season just hoping to avoid being relegated.
When clubs brought in better players to the UFL, one of the teams most hurt was Philippine Army. Being an armed forces team, they could not just sign a footballer unless he enlisted in the military. They may not have the edge when it comes to talent and recruitment but they make up for it with their physicality, although sometimes, they get a little overboard.
Last year, they were on the receiving end of a 10-0 embarrassment by Loyola, a 6-0 thumping of Global and two 4-0 shutouts courtesy of Kaya and Pasargad. Any other team who received a battering like that would have just given up. They could just go down one division where life could be a lot easier – but not Army. Bruised but not broken, they beat Union in a two-legged playoff, 8-4 on aggregate, to stay along with the big boys of the first division.
One piece of good news for them in 2014 is Ed Sacapano’s return. The Azkals’ handy goalkeeper will be joining his former national squad teammates Roel Gener and Nestorio Margarse on defense. Gener had been a part of the Azkals’ 2010 Suzuki Cup squad that pulled off a miracle in Vietnam, while Margarse is a veteran who gives his all to get that ball.
Sacapano, Gener, and Margarse, along with several more in the aging Philippine Army team, are all nearing the twilight of their footballing careers. If they want to play their last years in the First Division, then they must grind it out hard to produce a decent finish when the last match has been played. - Rappler.com