(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Oct. 31 edition)
It was our first meeting in almost three years and Cebu’s visionary sportsman, Ugur Tasci, couldn’t help but beam with pride as he showed his baby to a select group of mediaman.
“So, what do you think Mike?” he told me as he egged me on to step on the pitch.
“This is amazing,” I told him and I meant it.
Located at the South Road Properties, Dynamic Herb Sports Inc. Stadium is a wonder to behold, Cebu’s first artificial pitch and football specific stadium.
But it won’t be just for football, Ugur’s vision is grander than that. When he launched his dream in 2018, he wanted it to be a family destination, one where the parents can jog or relax under trees while their kids play. And there’s massive room for expansion, heck, I think there’s even a space for a couple of tennis courts, one that a lot of footballers will look forward to since I learned during the pandemic that a lot of officials, football parents and coaches have taken up the sport, the only one allowed at the start of the pandemic.
For now, it’s football, though Dynamic Herb marketing officer Astrid Erasga said they could expand to rugby and obstacle sports next.
And also for now, another of Tasci’s dream. Already an owner of Cebu’s most succesfull amateur club in recent years and with a sports stadium on the rise, he put two and two together and thought, why not put up Cebu’s own professional team?
Early this year, he started forming the team and in July he got his license from the PFF. In October, a beaming Ugur presented another of his pride and joy, the Cebu Football Club.
But as I watched the players train, I noticed a bunch of kids watching the goalkeeping exercises intently and I pointed it out to him.
They’ve had a regular audience of kids from the nearby slums who watch them train, some of them are already known by name to the players and coaches.
I saw goalkeeping coach Ref Cuaresma talked to a few of them and I told Ugur, “You know what? This could be the new San Roque?”
He was taken by surprise a bit and said, “You could be right.”
San Roque, of course, was Cebu’s football hotbed for years, where kids start by watching the grownups play before taking to the court themselves.
“We already have a few informal training with some of the kids,” said Ugur. “That’s the dream. For the players in Cebu to have a chance to realize their professional dreams with the club.”
And that’s not just through watching the players through the fence but through joining the academy that he is planning to put up. His amateur club, Leylam, had youth teams and it’s easy to translate that to an academy.
And there’s also a reason why he hired coach Apol Barinan as part of the coaching staff. The former member of the Malditas coaching team is tasked to form Cebu’s first women’s professional team.
Yep, you heard it right, a professional team.
Girls football in Cebu has always been a cut above the rest of the country and his should be a major boost.
Thanks to Ugur Tasci, the man with a vision.