PFL teams begin AFC Champions League campaigns

Kaya FC Iloilo vs Garelli FC.

Kaya FC Iloilo vs Garelli FC. –Jihan Ivy P. Caparros via Copa Paulino Alcantara

MANILA, Philippines–The next three days will see the perennial contenders of the Philippines Football League test their mettle against some of their counterparts in the Asian region when they kick off their respective continental campaigns on home soil.

PFL champion Kaya-Iloilo hosts Chinese Super League side Shandong Taishan in an 8 p.m. start at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday for its latest foray into the top-tier Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.

“We’ve been working hard for the past six weeks and there’s really a lot of excitement within the team,” said Kaya coach Colum Curtis ahead of the first Champions League match in the country.

Stallion-Laguna, meanwhile, opens its own Asian stint the following day in the second-level AFC Cup at Binan Football Stadium against Indonesia’s Bali United at 4 p.m.

Rizal Memorial will likewise be the site of Dynamic Herb Cebu’s own AFC Cup debut on Thursday when it plays Cambodian champion Phnom Penh Crown in a contest that starts at 8 p.m.

The AFC stints come after the three clubs secured qualification to the quarterfinals of the Copa Paulino Alcantara on the domestic front.

“It’s something that we’ve been wanting to do for a long time and for it to come to fruition feels really good,” said Stallion coach Ernie Nierras, who secured the AFC Cup slot after placing third in the PFL season.

Cebu also got to book its place in the AFC Cup, a breakthrough feat for the Central Visayas side which was only formed in 2021.

But the Gentle Giants will have to play their home games in Manila as their home field in Talisay City, the Dynamic Herb Sports Complex, didn’t meet AFC standards.

“We’re headed in the right direction, obviously we have a few more days to be ready for them,” said coach Joshua Schirmer. “We’ve pretty much recovered from our previous games in the [Copa] that we’ve won and now we’re working towards our first group stage, so I think we will be ready in time.”

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