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MANILA, Philippines – Just months after taking over as head coach of Kaya FC-Iloilo, Colum Curtis already made his presence felt in Philippine football as he steered the team to a perfect campaign in the recently concluded Copa Paulino Alcantara 2023.
Kaya FC went on an unbeaten run to claim the domestic cup in thrilling fashion as the Iloilo-based squad overcame Davao Aguilas-UMak FC via a penalty shoot-out in the championship round.
The Copa Paulino Alcantara triumph was Curtis’ third title as a coach after winning both the domestic league and cup in Cambodia.
“I think this one is the sweetest,” said the Norther Irish mentor.
“It’s the nearest I can see, it’s fresh in my memory, all of these players have worked for the past five months so I think this one for sure.”
“I’ve been away from my family, personally it’s been difficult for me, but I got a great group of players and I couldn’t be more pleased for them,” Curtis added.
Kaya FC dominated the season individual awards as well, with Senegalese forward Abou Sy bagging the Golden Boot after scoring 10 goals throughout the campaign, and goalkeeper Quincy Kammeraad picking up the Golden Glove after helping the team earn five clean sheets en route to the final against Davao Aguilas.
Japanese midfielder Daizo Horikoshi, who led the league in assists with 15, won Most Valuable Player, while Simone Rota copped the Best Defender.
“To be honest, when the decisions kept going against us, I thought maybe it’s not going to be our night, the deflection was going through the goalkeepers hands, but credit to the players,” said Curtis.
“They kept going for 120 minutes and thoroughly deserved to win it within 90 minutes, but we have our hands on the trophy, I don’t care how we get it as long as we’ve got it,” the 33-year-old Belfast-born tactician added.
Despite emerging as the new domestic cup champions, Kaya FC isn’t done yet as the team now focuses on its final match in the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League.
The Philippines’ Kaya FC will face off with Korea’s Incheon United on Wednesday, December 13, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kaya FC currently ranks at the bottom of Group G with 0 points and a -15 goal difference, but can still influence the final placing of the teams in the group by taking at least a point against current second placer Incheon.
Curtis said he team will “enjoy a little bit” before going back in training to prepare for “a really, really difficult game on Wednesday.”
Kammeraad, who saved the spot kicks of Yannick Tuason and Serge Kaole in the title-clinching penalty shoot-out, echoed his coach’s words as he wants to finish the calendar year strong with another massive victory.
“Obviously, you wanna end the year now with two wins” said Kammeraad, the 22-year-old goalie who grew up in the Netherlands, but has already represented the Philippines internationally in the youth levels.
“So enjoy [but] not too much, and we’re back on the pitch tomorrow morning.” – Rappler.com