Football Tribe SEA Editor
Following rumors circulating around the Internet regarding their withdrawal from the Philippine Football League and subsequent plans of disbandment, PFL giants Ceres-Negros have finally spoken up about the current issues that the Busmen are currently experiencing. Ceres confirmed what many have dreaded – the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the finances of club owner Leo Rey Yanson to the point of him being unable to sustain the club even further. However, Ceres iterated that they intend to continue their participation in the PFL – where they are the defending champions – and the ongoing 2020 AFC Cup. In order to fulfill this, a change of ownership is necessary – and while the club itself as an entity will continue to exist in Filipino, Southeast Asian, and Asian football, the name Ceres-Negros will cease to exist once the ownership of the club has shifted hands from Leo to another party.
“Ceres-Negros Football Club is currently in talks with investors who will be taking over the management and ownership of the club in preparation for the fourth season of the Philippine Football League as well as the resumption of the campaign in the AFC Cup,” read a statement written by Ceres in their social media platforms.
“As soon as the takeover is completed, the club will no longer be known as Ceres-Negros as our current chairman Leo Rey Yanson will not be involved in any way in the affairs of the club,” the statement continues, “Through Ceres-Negros FC, Mr. Yanson was able to share his love for the game to his countrymen. While the pandemic has struck hard on businesses all over the world, Ceres has made its best efforts to compensate the players and the staff.”
Ceres have appointed their general manager Ace Bright to oversee the club’s takeover and its subsequent period of transition.
Leo have admitted that the decision to let Ceres go from his grasps was one of the most difficult decisions that he has ever made.
“Believe me when I say that I have grappled with this difficult decision over the past few weeks,” Leo said in a farewell message to the Ceres players, “The club is more than just a club for me, it’s my family.”
“To say that letting go of Ceres is a difficult decision is an understatement,” said Nicholas Golez, the Ceres administrator who is also a close aid of Leo’s, “It took him many weeks, not just days to decide. I know deep down that he’s also in pain thinking about the decision that he’s about to make. But these are extraordinary times and we must respect his decision.”
Underneath Leo’s ownership, Ceres has established a dynasty of football within a country where the beautiful game isn’t considered as the main sport. They have won all three editions of the PFL and have expanded their wings beyond the Philippines and into Asia. The Busmen have faced and won games against far more established teams – Hanoi FC and Becamex Binh Duong (Vietnam), Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia), Tampines Rovers and Home United (Singapore), Persija Jakarta and Bali United (Indonesia), Port FC (Thailand), and most notably, Brisbane Roar (Australia). Ceres also came close to qualifying for the group stages of the AFC Champions League in 2018 and 2020, only for Tianjin Quanjian (China) and FC Tokyo (Japan) to prove themselves to be too much of a hurdle for the Busmen to overcome.
A massive task awaits the new ownership should the Ceres takeover is successful. They are tasked in retaining Ceres’ supremacy in both Filipino and Southeast Asian football, while at the same time increasing their competitiveness in a continental scale. They are also tasked in keeping the core of the team – head coach Risto Vidakovic and players such as captain Stephan Schrock, the Ott brothers Manny and Mike, OJ Porteria, Rolland Muller, Super Herrera, Robert Lopez Mendy, and last but not least, Bienvenido Maranon. Maranon has at least made the job easier for the new owners by stating that he would remain at the club regardless of the change of ownership.
Closing his farewell to the club that he had founded and raised for such a long time, Leo said, “The club may have a different name, a new owner, but I’m sure the spirit of Ceres-Negros, the winning tradition and our bond will live long in the hearts and minds of every football fan in the country.”