Collegiate Football

What’s Next for Collegiate Football?

With all the sporting events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every student-athlete has lost their chance to showcase their talent and provide us a view of what’s in stock for the future.

Earlier this year, the NCAA Season 95 Football Tournament was scheduled to end by the first week of April as they only have the knockouts and the championship games to play for both the seniors and the juniors division.

However, they weren’t able to finish the tournament due to the cancellation of the remainder of the season as a safety precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Their counterparts, UAAP, just started the season for the men’s and women’s division during the first week of March.

The women’s division saw four out of five teams, namely FEU, UP, UST, and ADMU, play in matchday one while in the men’s division, all eight universities got the chance to play before the league was canceled on the 16th of March.

On the other hand, the juniors division saw the FEU Baby Tamaraws book their historic 10th title at the expense of the NU Bullpups via a 2-1 scoreline.

The writer of this article got the chance to catch up with the University of the Philippines Football Team head coach Anto Gonzales via the #EatSleepBreatheFootball podcast last June 18, 2020.

Talking about his team, he said that the cancellation of this season might have the heaviest impact on their senior players as they missed the opportunity to represent the university for one last time before graduating.

“Senior players really want to end their UAAP campaigns on a high note. They are really the ones who carried a lot of the work during the preparations in terms of leading the team, making sure that their teammates are able to perform at their best. May iba nga umiyak,” he shared.

Coming off a season where they failed to make it to the finals as they lost to DLSU Green Archers, this season was supposed to be a redemption year. They were preparing since June last year where their main focus was to do better this season.

“We were really looking forward to bouncing back from a not-so-successful campaign last season. We saw the shift in the mentality and attitude of the players. From what I saw from last year’s performances, we lacked the cohesiveness as a team and we didn’t do enough of the simple things.”

Coach Anto already saw a glimmer of hope when they started training for this season as he saw the change right away. He wanted to give credit to the senior players who did a tremendous job in shaping up the team ahead of their quest for their 19th title.

However, it wasn’t their oppositions who halted this but a deadly virus that has gone and pestered the whole world and taken thousands of lives in the process.

Despite all these uncertainties, the UAAP board, through their recent appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum last June 16, 2020, said that they already have all their target plans and schedule on the table and they will take a conservative approach to cope up with the “New Normal”.

“We are planning to have a full calendar, but of course, that would be dependent on the government and the schools themselves,” said outgoing UAAP President Emmanuel Fernandez. “These are students and normalcy in the schools will take precedent.”

UAAP Executive Director Atty. Rebo Saguisag added, “We’re making plans, definitely, and that’s the target, full calendar, and all events. As to the assurance, everything depends on a lot of things, and first is the government regulations.”

Some of the plans they’ve mentioned were following the same format as the Southeast Asian Games where different sports are going to be played simultaneously in order to compress the season.

Di ba SEA Games tinatapos lahat within two weeks? What’s stopping the UAAP from doing the same thing? That’s for the events,” said Fernandez in the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Go For Gold, Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), and powered by Smart.

Though nothing has been mentioned yet about other sports, football included, it’s still a welcoming development for every collegiate football fans as well as coach Anto Gonzales.

“I’m all for it,” said Gonzales. “This is a very delicate situation that we’re having right now. We better be on the safe side. We really have to do our part as athletes and sports administrators to make sure that on our end, walang magko-contract ng virus.

With this news, it would surely boost the hopes of the players and the coaches that they’ll see each other soon on the pitch and prove who’s the best once the action kicks off.

In terms of their preparation, coach Anto Gonzales also made sure that even if he’s not with his players, they are still sticking to the program they set for them in order to stay in shape and always ready for action.

“When the lockdown started, we just sent out programs to them for them to do on their own and when we found out that the season was canceled, we gave them a short rest, and then we started with our online program during the first week of May.”

Coach Gonzales also said that this is the most that they can do to ease of some of the frustrations they had when the season was canceled and a chance for them to get together for a quick chat before the virtual training sessions.

Most of the things in the program focus on injury prevention as they would need to cope up with the physiological adjustments because of the difference of training at home and on the pitch.

“There will be major adjustments once they start wearing their boots and training on the field,” said Gonzales.

All in all, coach Anto, just like the other coaches as well would love to see the green fields again and do what they really love doing, playing football on the pitch and not indoors.

“For the UAAP community, football is one of the sports that they are really looking forward to watching. More than the frustration, I think people understand the situation that health and life are definitely more important than sports,” said coach Anto.

The frustrations that the fans and the players might have can be accredited to how collegiate football here in the country looks like. Over the past few years, players like Jarvey Gayoso, Fitch Arboleda, and Janjan Melliza, have made a name for themselves during their collegiate stint and after they turn pro.

“We’re going towards the right direction,” said the 39-year-old tactician. “Collegiate football has steadily progressed in the last few years. Proof of that is a number of college players getting a chance to represent the senior team.”

There were also plans for putting up U-23 leagues bared by coach Anto which are being set by the Youth Football League to bridge the gap from college to the pro leagues.

Based on his experience in leading the u-23 squad ahead of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, he saw a huge gap in terms of experience and understanding of the game against the neighboring countries.

He attributed this to the fact that ASEAN countries are a bit more developed compared to the football program here in the country.

“For the UAAP community, football is one of the sports that they are really looking forward to watching. More than the frustration, I think people understand the situation that health and life are definitely more important than sports,” said coach Anto.

The frustrations that the fans and the players might have can be accredited to how collegiate football here in the country looks like. Over the past few years, players like Jarvey Gayoso, Fitch Arboleda, and Janjan Melliza, have made a name for themselves during their collegiate stint and after they turn pro.

“We’re going towards the right direction,” said the 39-year-old tactician. “Collegiate football has steadily progressed in the last few years. Proof of that is a number of college players getting a chance to represent the senior team.”

There were also plans for putting up U-23 leagues bared by coach Anto which are being set by the Youth Football League to bridge the gap from college to the pro leagues.

Based on his experience in leading the u-23 squad ahead of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, he saw a huge gap in terms of experience and understanding of the game against the neighboring countries.

He attributed this to the fact that ASEAN countries are a bit more developed compared to the football program here in the country.

“For me, I would want to expose them into the pros already. If we can setup something that they will be considered as youth players, maybe allow each club to have three or five youth players that they don’t necessarily have to pay just to raise the level of our collegiate players,” said Gonzales on his opinion on how the Philippines can raise the quality in terms of collegiate football standards. 

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