The third season of the 7's Football League, founded by former Azkal Anton del Rosario, was unveiled at the McKinley Hill Stadium Sunday starting off with the games for the youth level.
It is the first time that the league organized a youth division, with four teams playing at the pitch at the same time. The big clubs playing in the Philippine Premiere League, Ceres-Negros FC and Kaya-Iloilo FC, sent their youth teams to participate in the league. FC Loyola-Youth, Socceroos and Bohemians Sporting Club were also among the teams that are participating at the youth level.
Around 30 games were played for the youth division for the opening day which was divided into age groups - U9, U13, U11, and U15.
PPL clubs Ceres FC and Stallions FC also sent teams to compete at the Seniors Division.. Ceres FC took on Tondo FC for the first game which also featured the inaugural and defending champions Super Eagles, as they played against the Jason de Jong backed-Bohemian Sporting Club on the other pitch. Debuting Stallions FC, on the other hand, faced the Nico Bolzico-backed Matu Deportivo alongside the fixture between Ghana and Superbad. Completing the games for the opening day of the league are H&J All-Stars playing against Futbol Fanatics and Real Amigos going up Anton del Rosario's Delimondo LFC.
The Senior Division games were action-packed as the defending champions Super Eagles edged newcomers Bohemian FC, 5-2.
"We have already expected that the teams would go after us as we are the defending champions for two seasons already. But we treat every game as if it were our final game of the season." Super Eagles Head Coach Danny Cross said.
For Bohemians player Daniel Matsunaga, being able to play for the 7s Football League is like a homecoming since he was also able to play in the UFL before it transitioned into the Philippines Football League and then eventually rebooted in the upcoming Philippine Premiere League.
"They [Super Eagles] were the better team, perhaps they played well against us but that didn't pressure me to play against them, not at all." he said when asked if he felt pressured that he and his team will be playing against the defending champions for their first game of the season.
Over at the other game, Tondo FC clinches their first win against Ceres FC;,2-1, despite facing the difficulty of putting the team together for training.
"We do individual trainings as most of us are no longer full-time football players. To play against a much younger and fresh team who had full-time training was a challenge for us. I guess our edge over them is we've known each other for a long time. We have chemistry," Tondo FC Head Coach Dennis Balbon narrated.
The second set of games for the opener also gave a show for the fans that flocked the stadium. Ghana FC had an almost flawless win over Superbad, 9-1.
"We lost in the championship last season via penalties so we really prepared for this game. We conceded one goal in because I think my players relaxed a bit after scoring 9 goals straight and that we have to swap some players to get them ready for the next game. All the teams had prepared for this season, Laro FC got the Japanese guys and Misagh Bahadoran, then Bohemians for sure will bounce back after their loss against Super Eagles, Stallion and Matu are also two competitive teams so it is very difficult to say right on that we are here to avenge our championship loss from last season. We cannot tell as of the moment but we are ready to face any team." said the Ghana FC coach Ayi Biyombo.
Meanwhile, Matu Deportivo displayed class against another 7s football newcomer, Stallions FC; 5-2 at the final whistle. Both teams were inseparable at halftime as they settled for a draw. However, coming from the break, Matu Deportivo saw a chance to outscore their opponent.
"Stallions used their first team and they were very good, they passed the ball a lot, they made us run a lot. I think that was a very even game, it was very fun. We saw that at the end of the first half, Stallion was losing intensity and we thought that we need to be more compact, we need to create less space in the middle because our opponent passes the ball a lot and is very good at moving without the ball. We needed to play smarter, run a bit less but be more organized," says Matu Deportivo player-coach, Nico Bolzico.
The last set of games that were scheduled for the opening day also did great with H&J All-Stars winning against Futbol Fanatics, 3-2, in an intensely close match.
In the other game, Delimondo-Laro FC clinched a victory over Real Amigos, 3-0. The game also featured the debut of Azkal Misagh Bahadoran in the league. However, he sustained an injury just before halftime and was not able to continue on.
"It was a great win for us considering that we were not able to practice for the game. I was pretty confident that the guys can turn it on, we were born athletes and we were born to play this game as we have been playing this since we were young. I look forward to the intensity of every match. Every game is action packed and it's similar with basketball, something that the Filipinos can relate on to. 7 a-side is more action-packed compared to 11 a-side, on which you have to wait and observe. This kind of football will be of great awareness to the Filipinos, the intensity and the back to back scoring are very relatable in a way for those who know basketball."
Complete game results are as follows:
G8 vs. Bohemian Sporting Club (1-4)
Ceres vs. Forza (0-0)
Malaya vs. Ceres (0-0)
G8 vs. Kaya (3-2)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. Loyola (9-0)
Futbol Fanatics vs. Sugod (1-1)
Kaya vs. Loyola (2-1)
Futbol Fanatics B vs. Futbol Fanatics A (0-0)
G8 vs. Bohemian Sporting Club (8-0)
Socceroo vs. Malaya (0-5)
Kaya vs. G8 (0-0)
Futbol Fanatics vs. Malaya (0-0)
Socceroo vs. Loyola (0-0)
Kaya vs. Loyola (3-2)
Ceres vs. Stallion (0-1)
Kaya vs. G8 (3-1)
Futbol Fanatics vs. Ceres (1-2)
G8 vs. Bohemian Sporting Club (1-2)
Socceroo vs. Futbol Fanatics (2-0)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. Loyola (3-0)
Kaya vs. Loyola (3-2)
G8 vs. Futbol Fanatics (0-2)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. Malaya (2-1)
Kaya vs. Malaya (1-2)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. G8 (0-3)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. Kaya B (0-1)
Loyola A vs. Kaya A (2-1)
Bohemian Sporting Club vs. Loyola (1-0)
Tondo FC vs. Ceres FC (2-1)
Super Eagles vs. Bohemian Sporting Club (5-2)
Ghana FC vs. Superbad (9-1)
Matu Deportivo vs. Stallions FC (5-2)
H&J All Stars vs. Futbol Fanatics (3-2)
Delimondo LFC vs Real Amigos (3-0)