CERES-LA Salle is setting its sight on a bigger tournament in the international scene after ruling the United Football League (UFL) in dominant fashion over the weekend.
After clinching the Division 1 title with still two matches to spare following a 6-0 shutout of Socceroo last Saturday, the Bacolod-based squad gained an outright berth to the Asian Football Confederation Cup group stage next February.
Ceres had a chance to qualify for the AFC Cup main phase this year, but fell short following a 1-0 loss to Maldivian side Maziya in their playoff in the opponent’s turf in Male last February.
Now, the Busmen have already surpassed the feat as they automatically earned a slot in the meet, but that hardly satisfies them.
“This (UFL title) is a ticket for the next tournament, which is where we really want to perform well,” Ceres coach Ali Go said of the second-tier club competition in the continent. “To get past the group stage, I think that’s going to be our target.”
Go has all the reason to be optimistic, having a star-studded squad led by Spanish sensations Adrian Gallardo and Bienvenido Marañon as well as Azkals Manny Ott, Patrick Reichelt, Martin Steuble, and skipper Juani Guirado.
“I don’t believe that we can’t do it,” the Ceres coach said. “With this squad, with a few more bits and pieces and with the right mindset, I think we’ll do well in the AFC.”
Another UFL club will have a chance to join Ceres in the group stage next year, but will first have to go through a playoff. Global FC represented the country earlier this year.
But first, Ceres still has to finish its league campaign with two no-bearing meetings against Manila Jeepney and Stallion FC.
“We’ll still play,” said Go, whose squad has an insurmountable 12-point lead after jacking up its tally to 40. “We want to win all the games.”