THREE-time Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros is setting lofty goals this year, starting with qualification to the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
The country’s most successful football club kicks off its quest for a place in Asia’s most prestigious club competition when it clashes with Shan United of Myanmar on Tuesday next week at the Rizal Memorial pitch.
The Busmen came close to reaching the group stage two years ago when they stunned Brisbane Roar of Australia in the second round only to fall short in the final phase against Tianjin Quanjian of China. Last year, Ceres fell at the first hurdle to Myanmar side Yangon United at the Panaad Stadium.
Gracing the first Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum for 2020 at Amelie Hotel in Manila yesterday, Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic tempered expectations, saying they started their preparations only last Monday after a three-month break.
“We cannot promise anything, but we will represent the country in the best way possible,” said Vidakovic, who steered the Busmen to the AFC Cup Asean zone title in 2017.
“We are going to fight until the last minute to reach the next round. It’s a very hard competition. But we are going to try. We will give our best so I hope everyone will support us.”
For the first time in their brief history in continental competitions, the Busmen will play their home games at the Rizal Memorial Stadium while the Panaad Stadium undergoes renovation. The Busmen regularly attract 5,000 at home in Bacolod City and striker Bienvenido Marañon hopes the team gets as much as crowd support in Manila.