The Thirsty Football Festival, more commonly known as the Thirsty Cup, revolutionized Cebu football in the early 2000s. The seven-a-side tournament, which was sort of a novelty then, not only had age groups as young as seven but also had the girls’ divisions. Back then, the Aboitiz Cup didn’t have those divisions so the Thirsty Cup sort of welcomed a new generation of Cebuano footballers.
There were a lot of football festivals that mushroomed after the Thirsty Cup and at its peak, I think there were almost two per month. Since then, the seven-a-side game has been a regular fixture in the Cebu football calendar and some take disdain towards it as the limited playing time sometimes meant luck, not skills, determines the winner.
This year, the AIA 7s Football League will finally launch in Cebu and though it is also a seven-a-side game, this is not your typical weekend festival. Playing time is 25 minutes, no break, and the tournament will last for a couple of months, not a couple of days.
I talked with coach Oliver Colina, whose group Forza is running the event, last week and he’s excited how the Cebu football community will receive such a tournament.
I think it will do to Cebu football what Thirsty Cup did in the early 2000s. Aside from the Men’s and Women’s Open, they have the age group for the Boys 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 Under, the Mixed 9 and 11 Under and the Girls 19-Under. They also have the Veterans 40-Above for those who want to relive their football heydays.
It will be played at the Dynamic Herb Football Stadium in Talisay, giving Cebuano players a chance to tryout the artificial pitch. Though the registration fee is more expensive than the usual festival, I think it would be worth it since it will run for two months—that’s the equivalent of paying for four or five festivals.
One disadvantage though, with the event running for two months, it might run in conflict with other tournaments like the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. and the Cebu City Olympics, but I hope things can be worked out among the three events.
By the way, I finally got to see a game at the Dynamic Herb Stadium, which will host a PFL (Philippines Football League) game in October, and though there were some drawbacks, it was a nice experience. For those who will be watching a game there for the first time, you have to temper your expectations.
Since the grandstand is too close to the field, when you sit in the first row, you have to lean over to see action in both corners. Some support poles for the roof also hinder some of the views, while the edge
of the grandstand also blocks play in the touchline.
But there’s also a bit of an advantage. Sitting in the first row is sort of like standing behind the railings at the Cebu City Sports Center, where you can clearly hear the coaches interaction with the players and referees. And boy, it’s fun.