FOR Kaya FC-Iloilo, winning the inaugural Copa Paulino Alcantara is the best possible way to pay homage to one of the province’s most beloved sons.
Jing Jamlang of Kaya FC pointed out that Ilolio was where the late great FC Barcelona legend was born and that it’s only appropriate for the club to win the tournament named after the former national team stalwart.
“Paulino Alcantara was born in Iloilo, and if we win this, it would be huge for Iloilo fans,” said Jamlang during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Tapa King Restaurant in Farmers Plaza, Cubao as he talks about the coming final between Iloilo’s official football club against Davao Aguilas FC.
“This is family and we fight for each other, and that’s the reason why there’s a lot of success within the club.”
But the Aguilas are out to spoil Kaya in its championship bid as a chance to represent the country in the group stages of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup early next year is also at stake in Saturday’s winner-take-all match at the Rizal Stadium.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday’s game. It’s our main objective to qualify to the AFC Cup, so we’ll do everything we can to win,” said Davao Aguilas’ Darrel Cheng, who also graced the weekly public sports program presented by San Miguel Corporation, Tapa King, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
A Spanish-Filipino, Alcantara was born in Concepcion, Iloilo in 1896 and moved to Barcelona, Spain at the age of three, where he eventually established a career in football playing as star forward for powerhouse FC Barcelona.
Alcantara, who died in 1967, held the club record for most goals which was broken only recently by Lionel Messi.
The direct descendants of the late football great, who are all based in Spain, have given the legal rights to use Alcantara’s name for the tournament in his honor, according to Philippine Football League’s Nevin Reyes.
The final stage was set between Kaya-FC and Davao Aguilas FC after both disposed their respective semifinals opponents on Sunday.
Behind the four-goal performance of Korean striker Kim Sungmin, James Younghusband, and Jason De Jong, the Aguilas overpowered JVP Marikina FC, 6-1, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Kaya-FC on the other hand, relied on the hat-trick of Senegalese forward Robert Lopez Mendy to ease past Stallion Laguna FC, 3-2, at the Iloilo Sports Complex.
Although Kaya-FC won thrice, lost once, and drew once against the favored Aguilas, Jamlang said the numbers are ‘all irrelevant’ come the final.
Despite his team having the number of the Aguilas, Jamlang still considers Kaya-FC the underdog against a Davao Aguilas side that also boasts of national team strike star Phil Younghusband, Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota, Dennis Villanueva, among others.
“Kaya is used to that (underdog). Kaya is the team that a lot of people look at and think they are not that good. But we surprise a lot of people,” said Jamlang of his team that has the likes of Lopez Mendy, the Copa leading goalscorer, Azkals standouts Miguel Tanton, Marwin Angeles, Jovin Bedic, and Antonio Ugarte.
“Being put in that corner is something that fires up the boys,” he added. “They are ready to fight for one another, that’s all they can do. They will try their best on Saturday and that’s a guarantee.”
Kaya-FC represented the country in the AFC Cup in 2016 where it advanced to the knockout rounds.