Leylam ushers Cebu back in domestic pro football

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Aug. 16 edition.

Will Cebu’s third foray in the local professional league finally be the charm? After a couple of years of hearing rumors, it was finally confirmed that Cebu will have its own pro club, after the Philippine Football Federation granted a club license to Dynamic Herb Cebu Football Club to join the Philippine Football League (PFL) this year.

It’s quite a name and though it could just be shortened to CFC or Cebu FC, I know some fans will refer to the club simply as Leylam since it’s what they’re used too.

It’s the third pro club to link with Cebu after Cebu Queen City United and Global Cebu FC.

NATIONAL DOMINANCE. Oliver Colina (in red) celebrates with his players after Leylam wins the Philam Kampeon 7s Cup in 2019. After dominating the Cebu scene for years, coach Bingbing will have his hands full as he leads the Dynamic Herb Cebu Football Club in the Philippine Football League.

Queen City, operated by the Cebu Amateur Football Club led by construction magnate Ricky Dakay, was the first when it joined the United Football League a decade ago. I remember me and some friends having watch parties at the old Azkals Sports Bar on the couple of Saturdays it had TV games during the UFL Cup.

It’s just too bad that Queen City didn’t get the home games that it was promised when it joined Division B a season later, flying weekly to Manila for its games.

It was such an expensive undertaking and they had nothing to show for it because of the absence of a home game so it was understandable when it quit the league, concentrating instead on the local scene.

In 2017, we finally got our own presence in the PFL but it was sort of a curious case as our home team would fly weekly to Cebu for its “home games.” Still, despite that setup, the home fans made sure they were at home, buying the tickets — with the ones going for P200 selling out first than the P50 general admission seats. The team paid the love back with performance in the field as it went undefeated in all its home games, beating title favorites Ceres FC once. It wasn’t just the fans who rolled out the red carpet as local football officials chipped in, too. I remember the referees said they were treated like kings and they learned to say, “I love Cebu,” as they prayed to get assigned to games here.

But Global Cebu changed ownership after that and went through a series of unfortunate events that had Cebuano fans shaking their heads whenever we heard of the latest sad story involving the once-mighty club.

And now, we’re back. For years, we’ve been used to seeing Leylam dominate the local men’s scene, winning back-to-back-to-back Aboitiz Men’s crown and now we will see how Leylam — nee Cebu FC — will fare in the domestic scene.

WORTH THE WAIT. After three years of having no club to call their own in the domestic scene, Cebu football fans will finally have one in the 2021 PFL season.

It won’t be easy for sure and coach Oliver Colina will have his hands full in their maiden season. But, as he said, he wants the club to be competitive. As for the fans, I know they’re giddy as hell to support Cebu FC.

There won’t be any home games yet because of the pandemic but I can just imagine how the home stadium will look like once fans are welcomed back in.

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