The Philippines Football League (PFL) is a Filipino professional sports organization, considered to be the highest level of men’s club football in the country. It recently replaced the now defunct United Football League (UFL), the country’s de facto premier league.
Following the recent success of the Philippine Azkals at the start of the decade, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) capitalized on the renaissance of local football and thus established the PFL last April 21.
Under the prescribed national league format of the sport’s universal and regional sanctioning bodies, the International Federation of Association Football and Asian Football Confederation, respectively, the potential of the grassroots and top-flight levels of the game has grown even further.
DLSU Football Alumni and current PFL players Gerald Layumas, Matthew Nierras, and Patrick Deyto share their insights and experiences on playing in the league’s inaugural edition.
Layumas, a full-back known for his speed down the flanks with DLSU, joined the recently formed Davao Aguilas FC through eventual teammate Kim Versales.
A co-captain in his collegiate days and now a regular starting defender for Stallion Laguna FC, Nierras has been playing with the same team since 2012 in its UFL years. He mentions that he started playing with Stallion thanks to his father, Ernie Nierras, who is the owner and head coach of the team.
He also shares that it is a blessing to be a part of the small group of athletes who have a parent as their coach, but at the same time, says it comes with heavy expectations. “You have to put in that extra effort to justify why you’re selected for being a good player, and not just because you’re the coach’s kid.”
Global Cebu FC and Azkals goalkeeper Patrick Deyto has gone a long way to get to the national team. From a few stints in the UFL to representing the country at the senior level, Deyto, Global’s first-choice goalkeeper, shares some of the values he picked up along the way in his route to becoming a professional.
The La Salle-Zobel alumnus explains how as an athlete, discipline comes first, followed by dedication and perseverance. Much patience is needed to get one their desired outcome. Furthermore, he shares that it is crucial for athletes to have a strong mentality since they will have to learn how to face challenges throughout their career. “You must learn to deal with [problems] while remaining positive and confident [in] your own abilities.”
Everyone faces trials and tribulations. For Layumas, he shares how he finds difficulty securing his position in the team considering that he has teammates who play the same position as he does (defender). However, despite that, he enjoys how he can properly communicate with some of them since they speak the same dialect.
Nierras on the other hand, thought that his UAAP career would be his last chance in playing competitive football until the UFL came about. He also shares how lucky he is to have a Stallion teammate from DLSU in cousin Nathan Alquiros.
And although it is quite the burden to be the coach’s son, it is something he appreciates. “I take it as a means to never slack off and always push myself to do my best each and every day,” he says. “[My father has] done all this for me, so to do my best on the field and prove that I’m worthy of playing is what I can do to make him, and hopefully my teammates, proud as well.”
However, a big similarity for Nierras between his collegiate days and his current career is the bond he shares with his teammates over the years. He states how he considers his teammates, both in DLSU and in Stallion, as the brothers he’s never had. “You build relationships that will last you a lifetime.”
Hard work pays off
When asked how donning the Green-and-White under long-time head coach Hans Smit prepared them in the professional ranks, Nierras and Layumas highlighted that fitness and mental toughness were instilled within them. Additionally, the prior elaborates, “Definitely, without the UAAP, I wouldn’t be playing the way I am now. Especially [with] how our culture is and how the system works, you really need to go through your college playing years in order to prepare yourself to play professionally.”
Layumas currently embraces the fact that he gets to play the sport that he loves professionally, something Nierras agrees with.
A bright future awaits
Deyto believes that the future is bright for the sport of football in the country, especially with the PFL in its “infancy stage”. He explains, saying, “It [the PFL] will get better year by year as the people behind it learn every year as well. I’m happy for the younger players, that they have something to aim for in their careers.”
Looking back from their experiences and getting to where they are now, Nierras and Layumas gave their piece of advice to the local aspiring footballers with regard reaching their dreams of also playing among the elite ranks of the country. Layumas asserts, “Don’t stop, keep going, and be the best as you move forward.”
Likewise, Nierras offered words of encouragement, saying, “Never give up. Take all the criticism that comes your way and use it to become a better player.” He also stresses the need to stay humble and to embrace the grind. “[Keep your] head down and work your butt off if you truly want to become a pro football player.”