By Joey Villar
Power-packed matches featuring newly-crowned champion Global FC against Pasargad FC and another title favorite Kaya FC versus Green Archers United FC will usher in the 2012 season of the United Football League Cup, which begins on Tuesday at the University of Makati field in Makati City.
No less than UFL chair Santi Araneta, president Randy Roxas and new league commissioner Bonnie Ladrido along with Sports5 manager Vitto Lazatin opened the season with the traditional drawing of lots in a press conference at the Krocodile Grille in Greenbelt 3 in Makati City.
Pasargad FC, Navy, General Trias and Team Socceroo were drawn in Group A while Green Archers United, Diliman FC, Forza FC and Dolphins United FC were bracketed in Group B with Global.
In Group C, Loyola Meralco Sparks are joined by Nomads, Pachanga, Laos FC and Mendiola FC while Stallion Gilligans is packed in Group D alongside defending Cup titlist Air Force, Army, Sta. Lucia FC and Agilas FC.
"Compared to last year, there will be no 'Group of Death' this year because all the teams got the fair and equal distribution of teams," said Araneta.
Meanwhile, the league has gotten bigger with its television coveror AKTV on IBC 13 showing its games on prime time twice a week instead of its usual weekend schedule of Saturday games last year.
This means that UFL games will be shown live during Tuesdays and Thursdays starting this Tuesday with the 5 p.m. Global-Pasargad and 7 p.m. Kaya-Green Archers United matches at the UMak.
"We're excited to say that the UFL will now be shown twice a week instead of our usual Saturday schedule," said Lazatin, whose AKTV on IBC 13 has been showing not just football but others sports as well like the NCAA, the PBA, Olympics, boxing, billiards and PXC among others.
Roxas, for his part, also made assurances that the massively popular Younghusbands, Phil and James, who are not playing with the Azkals in the ongoing Peace Cup at the Rizal football pitch, will see action for the Loyola-Meralco Sparks.
"The Younghusbands will play," said Roxas.
While the 16 teams have undergone the drawing process, Global, Loyola, Kaya and Stallion were seeded in different groups outright and are expected to be the teams to watch out for in the Cup.
Global, for one, has acquired Fil-German Denis Santos Wolf, who scored a hat-trick in the Azkals' 5-0 demolition of Macau in the Peace Cup yesterday, in place of its top striker, Fil-Spanish Angel Guirado, who had 12 goals last season but opted to bolt out of Global for an Indian club.
The Edwin Cabalida-coached Global will also have Marvin and Marwin Angeles for a full-season to further beef up a team already loaded with stars in Misagh Bahadoran and Izzo El Habbib.
Meralco, for its part, will retain the dreaded Younghusbands to go with new additions in Chad Gould, PJ Fasdrigalan, and Koreans Byeong Yeol Jeong, Park Minho, Jo Won Jang and Hoon Goo Heo.
Kaya, meanwhile, is expected to get a big boost from the return of playing team captain and assistant coach Aly Borromeo from a devastating ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury he suffered last year.
Borromeo's presence should boost an already loaded Kaya roster of Ivory Coast's Eric Dagroh, Nate Burkey, Yannick Tuason, Eddie Mallari, Jason Sabio, Anton and Armand del Rosario, Jonah Romero, Lexton Moy and Kross Ubiam.