MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Football League decided to scrap the planned Copa Paulino Alcantara and instead will open its 2021 season on July 17, following the national government’s new quarantine protocols.
Copa Paulino Alcantara, which was named after the Filipino-Spanish who played for FC Barcelona from 1918 to 1927, was originally scheduled to be played from April until May.
“The (Copa Paulino Alcantara) will not push through this year because of the current situation,” said PFF president Mariano Araneta, Jr. “We decided that we will proceed with the league by 17 July when we have the vaccines rolled out already.”
The PFL, which managed to hold the 2020 season in a bubble from October to November, also took into consideration June 2021 international window where the Azkals will compete in the Fifa World Cup Qualifiers in China.
Kaya FC-Iloilo and United City FC are also set to play in the AFC Champions League play-off and group stage.
The PFF has also communicated with the PFL’s chief sponsor Qatar Airways about the league’s kickoff date and also to the participating clubs to give them ample time to prepare.
“We understand the situation the clubs are facing during these challenging times,” said PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes. “With a scheduled kickoff date of 17 July, the clubs will be able to plan accordingly for another exciting PFL season.”
The PFL will also procure the necessary COVID-19 vaccines to ensure its staff, players’, and coaches’ safety as the league now plans to increase its number of matches to as many as 84.
The need for more games came as a result of the league’s expansion from six to eight teams.
“The players are welcome to be vaccinated as it is protection with them,” said Araneta. “We’re giving them a choice as PFF will be spending for the vaccines. I’m confident that they will accept these vaccines.”
“Last year, clubs were only able to play five matches in the bubble season,” said PFL Commissioner Coco Torre. “With the vaccine set to roll out this year, we look forward to giving the clubs more competitive matches to keep the players physically fit, which will benefit our clubs participating at the domestic level, international competitions, and our national team.”
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