In an effort to lift the status of the grassroots football in the country, the Philippines sent out delegations to China to participate in the Shoong Ching Ling Cup in Xianghe and the much bigger Gothia Cup in Qingdao – Both squads did not disappoint.
After the disappointing stint of the u-16 players in the recently concluded AFF U-16 Youth Championship, any chances for redemption are very much welcome and the u-13 boys delivered better results. In Xianghe, the NOFA PH Boys backed by Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA) president Ricky Yanson, finished fourth place despite the adversities that were thrown at them.
They first met with the hosts China which they shocked and demolished as they scored three goals past them before facing and getting a point against Indonesia via a 1-1 draw in their next game. They then cruised past Cambodia in their last group stage match as they scored seven past them to make it to the semis as top of the pack.
Although they would lose their semifinal match against a masterful Thailand who gave them a 6-1 dressing down, and a 2-1 defeat against the hosts, they still went out for a wonderful experience and laid everything down for the country to finish fourth in the said tournament.
On the other hand, Laos FC, the government of Quezon City and Valenzuela City sent five teams to the Gothia Cup, the World Cup of youth football and came up with something good from their stint in Qingdao. With the campaign being the squad’s second time in China, the Boys-13 squad of Quezon City went out for a performance of a lifetime as they finished equal first with the hosts’ FC Xindang and FC Guoguo to make it to the knockouts after garnering two draws and a win.
Their last group stage match was a thriller as the boys came back from a 1-nil deficit and win the match in the dying minutes to set up a semifinal match with South Korea’s Geomcheon FC. In their semifinal clash, Quezon City outclassed Geomcheon FC as they won four goals to two to make it to the final where they faced USA’s LA United.
Although they would eventually lose against the Americans two goals to one, they still made their best performance count as they bagged the silver medal. A very different outing for them this time as the previously Boys-12 players finished bottom of the table in their first stint in Qingdao.
First timers Valenzuela City also made the most of their debut in the tournament as the Boys-11 side finished third in the group stages before falling short in the quarterfinals against CYQSEK from China. The Boys-12 squad had a decent run as well as they also made a third place finish in the group stages before bowing down to LA United in the quarterfinals.
Quezon City and Valenzuela City’s major sponsor, Laos FC, also sent out two teams comprising of players from the two cities to form a formidable Boys-12 and Boys-16 squad. The Boys-12 players finished second place in the group stages before being humbled by Deren FC from Mongolia in the knockout stages after a four-nil finish above the Filipinos.
The Boys-16 side might’ve experienced a rough first two games in the group stages but they went out blazing in their their match as they won against FC Haichen two goals to nil and a masterful six-nil win over Youthbangla from Bangladesh to make it to the Plate Final. Once there, they finished strong as they scored three past Cheonan FC to take home the gold medal.
In the end two different paths to greatness, both resulted to prosperous campaigns overall for the future of the Philippines grassroots football.
Thanks to various individuals, the kids are now being exposed to a much bigger competition outside the country and are gathering the experiences they need for the future. Is this the start of the renaissance of our youth football?