This article appeared on the Busmen Review, the official magazine of Ceres-Negros FC, on the eve of the PFL Final with Global Cebu FC
Ceres-Negros FC coach Risto Vidakovic arrived in the Philippines more than a year ago with very little knowledge of the game in this part of the world. His job was to bring a talented squad to the next level after a subpar season in 2016. The Busmen Review talks to the Spanish mentor on his time with the club and the challenge of facing Global Cebu in the PFL final.
What were your impressions on the squad when you arrived?
The first thing when I saw the team was that it was not together. So the first thing I did was to put them together in a restaurant, try to bring them together, and make them a team. All the time, I’m here I’m trying to make a family of the team. I think now there is now a big difference since I came here. They have only one goal and they are working altogether to have a good atmosphere.
What were the goals of the team coming into this 2017 season?
This season, our goal was to advance from the group stage of the AFC Cup and of course, for a club like Ceres, its also to win the league. We’ve almost reached both now so we have to try to give everything on Saturday to win the league.
What were the unique challenges with the team playing in different tournaments this
It was not easy, especially the schedule of the PFL after playing in the AFC Cup. We
played until September for the AFC Cup and there was not so much time to play the rest of the re-scheduled games. We played every three days and its not easy to maintain the same level because you cannot train.
How hard was it for the team to reach the PFL Final?
It was a stressful game against Kaya. You make history in the AFC Cup but your PFL season was depending on one game. Kaya, especially in the second game, had nothing to lose so they came here to try to surprise us and the big pressure was on the team. But we stayed together and everyone gave 100 percent. For me, that’s what I’m proud of because to put the team together, bring it as one, and to fight for each other means that there’s more than one title you can win.
With a good chunk of the pressure offafter AFC Cup qualification, do you think it will have positive effect in playing Global in the final?
I think we can make a good match on Saturday. Global is also a good team. I think were equal at that moment and us playing at home is the only advantage we have. We are playing in front of our home crowd and I think the players will give everything to win.
Ceres-Negros played the final of their lives and clinched the league title with an emphatic 4-1 win over their fierce rival. The busmen are now in the history books as the first AFC Cup ASEAN Zone and Philippines Football League champions.