By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
KAYA FC-Iloilo seeks to book a spot in the group stages of the 2021 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (CL) as it takes on Shanghai Port FC in a playoff match on Wednesday in Thailand.
Happening at the Pathum Thani Stadium in Bangkok, Kaya will try to make the most of its first appearance in the continental tournament and go deep in the competition.
At stake in the Kaya-Shanghai Port match is a spot in Group F of the AFC CL, where waiting are champion squads BG Pathum United of host Thailand and Viettel of Vietnam, and defending Champions League titleholder Ulsan Hyundai of Korea.
The Philippine side was originally set to take on first Brisbane Roar in the playoffs before the latter and other Australian clubs decided to pull out from the tournament, leaving Kaya with one less roadblock to hurdle.
For the competition at hand, Kaya has a new coach at the helm in Englishman Graham Harvey and will be parading new signings which include young Philippine Azkals player Jarvey Gayoso.
Mr. Harvey will be working with assistant coach Yu Hoshide in trying to lead the team in the prestigious biennial football meet.
“The boys really did well in training and we will just prepare for whichever Shanghai team plays us,” said Mr. Harvey in the lead-up to the Shanghai match.
For Mr. Gayoso, who is coming off a stint with the national team in the recent joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates, playing for Kaya now is something he is looking forward to.
“It’s great to be here. It helps that I know most of the players. We’ve been busy training and I’m ready and we’re ready,” he said.
Apart from Mr. Gayoso, other new signings of Kaya are JhanJhan Melliza and Fitch Johnson Daviz Arboleda from Stallion Laguna FC, midfielder Ryo Fujii and striker Patrick Asare.
In the event Kaya wins over Shanghai Port, it will join reigning Philippines Football League champion United City Football Club, which is already through to the group stages and set to play in Group I along with Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, China’s Beijing Guoan and Korea’s Daegu FC.
On the other hand, if Kaya falls short, it will have to settle playing in the AFC Cup where it has played three times previously and reached the Round of 16 back in 2016.