IT may be just a charity exhibition, but expect an all-out encounter when the best of the United Football League collide in the maiden UFL All-Star Game on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
A Philippine team basically made up of Azkals standouts takes on a Rest of the World squad featuring the finest foreign talents in the country’s premier football tournament.
Misagh Bahadoran and Mark Hartmann of Global FC, Loyola Meralco’s Phil and James Younghusband, Manny Ott of Ceres-La Salle, and Kaya FC’s OJ Porteria banner the Filipino booters, who also have Amani Aguinaldo, Martin Steuble, Simone Rota, Juani Guirado, Daisuke Sato, Patrick Deyto, Nate Burkey, and Chris Greatwich.
Former Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo, Kaya FC teammate Miguel Tanton, Global’s Jerry Barbaso, and Ceres goalkeeper Michael Casas complete the 18-man roster.
“They’re playing for national pride, so I don’t think they can’t give their one-hundred percent,” Philippine coach Ali Go of pacesetting Ceres said ahead of the 8:15 p.m. match.
It's like the national team facing a top-ranked country in a friendly as the formidable foreign squad is led by the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Gallardo of Spain and Ceres, Global’s Sudanese strike star Izo El-Habib, Spanish Joaco Cañas and American Anthony Putrus-Schnell, and Ghanaian goalkeeper Baba Sampana of Socceroo.
Senegalese striker Robert Mendy of Green Archers United, British forward Louis Clark of Kaya, and Ivorian midfielder Oladipo Okunaiya of Ceres likewise bolsters the squad, which also boasts of Son Yong Chan, Sang Min Kim, Yu Hoshide, Roland Sadia, David Icardo, Daniel del Rio, Hamed Hajimahdi, and Adam Mitter.
“There are a thousand ways you can think of a starting lineup (with the talent at my disposal),” Rest of the World coach Simon McMenemy of the Sparks said. “We’re going to win, but I know Ali’s going to say the same.”
“It’s just a great spectacle to see how local guys match up with foreign guys,” the former national team mentor added.
Participants were voted online by fans, as well as the media and the organizing Football Alliance, which asked all the teams to nominate five Filipinos and five foreigners, who all made up the pool where the voters chose from.
The first-round-capping event, backed by LGR Sportswear and Giligans, begin at 4 o’clock with the Western Visayas Classic pitting the best of Iloilo against Negros Occidental, the country’s biggest rivalry.
The two matches sandwich an 11 vs 100 match where captains of the Division 1 teams will go up against 100 selected participants in the UFL Youth competition aged nine years old and below.
“The real winners here are the fans,” Go said.