Football Tribe SEA Editor
Reports have been circulating throughout the Internet since Friday morning that Ceres-Negros, a behemoth of Filipino and Southeast Asian football, have gone bust. The 3-time Philippine Football League champions were reportedly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic financially, with the team being unable to pay their players for the past two months.
The Twitter account Filipino Football first brought up the news regarding Ceres’ apparent demise on Friday, shortly after tweeting about the retirement of Philippines national team legend legend James Younghusband. And while the initial tweet was met with disbelief – there were no official word from both the PFL and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) regarding Ceres disbanding themselves – an article from Australian website The World Game – SBS seem to have confirmed that things aren’t going rosy at the Busmen camp.
Former Petaling Jaya City and Sukhothai FC defender Joshua Grommen revealed to The World Game about the situation that he had faced in Ceres. The Filipino-Australian footballer said that he had ended his contract with the PFL behemoths, stating that the club hadn’t paid their players in two months due to the pandemic, which had caused the club’s owners to declare bankruptcy. It was also reported that due to the ongoing financial issues at the club, Ceres have allowed their players to leave the club temporarily, with a withdrawal from the PFL on the cards.
However, a number of Filipino football accounts on Twitter have dismissed news regarding Ceres being disbanded as mere rumors. They, however, have tweeted that there’s a possibility that Ceres’ owners might have to sell the club to ease Ceres’ financial woes. They also state that the PFF are trying their best to convince the Ceres higher-ups to reconsider their decision to drop out of the PFL.
Should Ceres decide to drop out of the PFL and disappear from the footballing scene altogether, it will serve as a huge blow to not only Filipino football, but also Southeast Asian football in general. Alongside the likes of Buriram United, Johor Darul Ta’zim, and Hanoi FC, Ceres were considered as one of the best Southeast Asian teams out there, having reached the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone knockout stages every single time since its introduction in 2017. The Busmen were kings of ASEAN in 2017, going all the way to that year’s AFC Cup Inter-Zone Play-Offs where they lost to Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol. Ceres’ talismanic Spanish striker Bienvenido Maranon is the current all-time top scorer of the AFC Cup with 35 goals and with 67 goals he’s also the all-time top scorer of the PFL.
Ceres were also the hotbed of Filipino talent with a number of the country’s best players having turned out for the Busmen’s yellow. Among them are the aforementioned Joshua Grommen and the recently-retired James Younghusband, as well as Stephan Schrock, the Ott brothers Manny and Mike, OJ Porteria, Roland Muller, Hikaru Minegishi, and Dennis Villanueva to name a few. Notable PFL alumni who have since played abroad such as Kevin Ingreso (Buriram United), Martin Steuble (Port FC), Patrick Reichelt (Suphanburi FC), and Omid Nazari (Persib Bandung) had also once donned the yellow jersey of Ceres earlier in their career. The loss of Ceres meant that the current crop of players would surely disperse themselves either within the PFL or to greener pastures that are the Thai League 1 and the Liga Super Malaysia, to name a few.
Should Ceres drop out of the PFL, the league will only have 5 teams participating for the upcoming 2020 season, which will kick-off in July. Having already lost Green Archers United and Philippine Air Force FC, the remaining contestants of the league are Global FC, Kaya FC-Iloilo, Stallion Laguna, Mendiola FC, and the newly-formed Azkals Development Team FC (ADT Manila).