By Adrian Stewart Co
Kaya Futbol Club-Iloilo will vie for a spot in the AFC Champions League when it faces Shanghai Port of China in a playoff match tonight at the Leo Stadium in Bueng Yitho, Thailand.
A victory in the match scheduled at 10:00 p.m. tonight is vital for the Iloilo City-based football club for them to qualify in the Champions League along with fellow Philippine-based team United City Football Club.
Kaya-Iloilo will be bracketed with Thailand’s BG Pathum United FC, South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, and Vietnam’s Viettel if they will be able to hurdle the favored Chinese team.
But, if Kaya-Iloilo loses to Port, they will be relegated to the second tier 2021 AFC Cup and will battle either Shan United FC or Ayeyawady United FC from Myanmar, Terengganu FC from Malaysia, and Geylang International FC from Singapore.
Newly-appointed Kaya-Iloilo mentor Graham Harvey said, despite his team being the underdogs in the match up, they vowed to give their all to reach the Champions League for the first time.
“I think it’s very important that we go [to Thailand] with a nice, positive mindset,” Harvey said. “Our style is definitely going to be one of making sure that we are intense without the ball.”
“We’ll work really hard to get it back and maintain our shape, and then when we do get the ball, we’re in a position to be able to counterattack as quickly as possible,” he added.
The match will also serve as the debut for Ilonggo Jhan Melliza and Fitch Arboleda, who transferred from Stallion Laguna FC, as well as for Philippine Azkals member Jarvey Gayoso, Nathan Bata, Japanese-Korean Ryo Fujii and Ghanian Patrick Asare.
Returning to Kaya-Iloilo’s roster were Ilonggos Jovin Bedic and Shirmar Felongco, Zach Banzon, Masanari Omura, Eric Giganto, Kenshiro Daniels, Marwin Angeles, Carlyle Mitchell, Simone Rota, Louie Casas, and Dylan De Bruycker.
“Everybody’s doing their very best in the challenging circumstances that we have to make sure that we represent our club and all of the fans to the best of our ability,” Harvey said./ASC, WDJ