Three years after stunning the Manila football scene by taking Leylam all the way to the Philam Vitality Kampeon 7’s Cup title in 2019, coach Oliver Colina will have a daunting task–defending the title against a star-studded field that features the who’s who of Philippine football, including Anton del Rosario and Stephen Schrock.
In 2019, Leylam beat Maharlika Manila, a team that had del Rosario and former Azkals captain Aly Borromeo, 5-3, to win the title with a Cebu team that was a mixture of high school, college and men’s open players. That success was one of the final pushes that led Leylam owner Ugur Tasci to join the local professional league.
Now, Colina will have to lead a rag-tag group in defending the crown this weekend in football-hotbed Bacolod. Compounding matters is Cebu getting in a group with BGC and Iloilo.
“We have a new team but we will try our best to defend the title,” said Colina, who is now based in Manila and whose players are from Cebu.
None of the 2019 players are in the squad, including then MVP Marius Kore who now plays for Cebu in the PFL. However, Tribu Sugbu All-Star features players who have made waves in local and national age group events and local men’s open competitions. Among them are Don Bosco Technology Center alums Josh Asignar and John Clyde Vitualla. Also in the squad is keeper, Leonard Tan, who played in the PFL and had a memorable stint between the sticks for Don Sacredale (a combination of players frm high school rivals Don Bosco, Springdale, and Sacred Heart-Ateneo) against then collegiate champion in one Aboitiz Cup game straight off from work and sans any sleep.
Also in the team are Andre Sabejon, John Jamelo, Jaire Tanjay, Christan Gomez, Reymart Cubon, Luis Garciano, Hayato Fukui, and Ekundayo Andrew, Colina’s former player with Leylam. Kouame Komenan is their guest player.
They will be facing a BGC team that has former Kaya ace striker Figo El Habib and del Rosario himself.
“We will be eyeing revenge,” del Rosario said during the last Monday’s press con that was streamed online. Still, if he fails with that goal, del Rosario will come out a winner.
When his star-studded team lost to Leylam, then unknown to the Manila football scene, it boosted del Rosario’s belief that the Kampeon’s Cup was a tournament Philippine football needed.
“There’s a lot of talents outside of the city that gets overlooked and we want to provide the opportunity to those talents. That’s what the Kampeon Cup is all about,” said del Rosario.
Incidentally, Leylam signed del Rosario as a player and endorser months after winning the Kampeon Cup and was set to host the 2020 tournament a week before the Covid-19 lockdowns halted all sports events.
The Kampeon Cup is the first event to give seven-a-side football a national direction. These tournaments, called fiesta cups, are popular and staged all over the country because of its fast pace and the fact that these events can be staged over two days. At its height, there were fiesta cups in Cebu almost every two weeks and the biggest and longest-running event, the Thirsty Football Cup, had almost 300 entries in four venues during one edition.
By pitting champions in one event, the AIA Vitality Kampeon’s Cup takes the sport to a new direction.
Next year, del Rosario, who wore his heart on his sleeve as a player, has even bigger plans for the event, planning to go international with entries from Singapore, Guam, Malaysia, Thailand and even the US.
And his sponsor, AIA has an even bigger goal—bringing in the Tottenham Hotspurs, an EPL team that has AIA as its shirt sponsor.