Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Ceres Negros Panaad Experience

Ceres Negros lead the way - on and off the field.

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Ceres Negros FC put on a dominant display as they demolished Tampines Rovers in their second group match of the 2017 AFC Cup in front of a packed Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. 

Three first half goals from Ceres put the Busmen on their way to a comfortable victory, with Tampines Rovers struggling to find answers. 

New signing Iain Ramsay made a dream start for his new team Ceres with a superb strike in the opening seconds of the match, as 
Ceres never looked back. 

Signed from Kaya FC in the offseason to boost the squad, OJ Porteria and Junior Muñoz put in splendid performances in their debuts in front of their home fans as well. 

With Coach Thomas Dooley watching from the stands, Azkals goalkeeper Roland Muller and Jeffrey Christiaens impressed in overpowering a surprisingly overmatched S. League side. 

Displaying crisp passing and quick one-twos, the Bacolod side issued a statement of great intent to the rest of their group. 

But what's more impressive is not just the performance on the pitch, but the preparation the management of Ceres put in prior to hosting the match. 

From the banners lining up the airport arrival halls, to the posters lining up the streets of Bacolod, to the giant billboards with the players' faces plastered in the highways, Ceres Negros FC made sure that all efforts were made to ensure all in Bacolod knew of the magnitude of the game. 

And the fans duly came in droves. 

Bucking rainy weather the whole day, yellow clad supporters packed Panaad Stadium to give their support to their home team. 

 The atmosphere in Panaad was electric, with drums blaring whole game long and horns from nearby Ceres buses giving the game a uniquely Negrense experience. 

When the PFF planned the Philippines Football League, they surely must have envisioned the national league with the Panaad fan support and experience in mind. 

Fans in Manila weary of poor attendances and interest owe it to themselves to make the trip down south to catch one of the remaining two Ceres home group stage matches. It is something to behold. 

Support from fans, officially declared at 8,000 but closer to 10,000 in actuality, made the Ceres players and coaching staff wax lyrical about the prospect of playing their home games here in Panaad. 

Manny Ott enthuses, "Always playing here it makes us proud, it's like unbelievable, the support in Bacolod. The crowd is amazing and it's better to play here than in Rizal Memorial in front of 800 people."

Iain Ramsay likewise pays tribute to the fans. 

"The fans are amazing. From the whole game, from start to finish they're screaming, they're loud, fans are playing. 

"This is football. This is what atmosphere is all about."

A trip to Panaad Stadium for the Ceres game has dispelled all talk of the demise of Philippine football and waning interest, at least for this humble writer. 

Ceres now top their group with four points and will greatly look forward to their next home game against Felda United on March 15. 

It can be sure that the fans are equally looking forward to it as well. 

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