|Leylam takes home the inaugural Kampeon 7's Cup championship.|
By Dugout Philippines
MANILA - The Cebu Leylam F.C. Niños claimed the inaugural Philam Vitality Kampeon 7's Cup crown in style, beating Maharlika F.C. Manila in an intense final showdown, 5-3 during the culminating day of the event Sunday at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig.
Marius Kore set the tone for the Cebuanos, scoring a hat-trick in the first half before the Niños held on for the victory to be hailed the best 7's football team in the country.
Cebu bested all-star teams from Manila, Bacolod, and Davao.
Leylam F.C. led 3-nil in the first half before Aly Borormeo finally broke resistance for Manila early in the second half inside the box.
Moments later, Anton Del Rosario scored on a volley off a set piece as Manila pulled closer.
But Leo Maquiling found himself with a lot of space in the attacking third for Cebu, rifling in another goal past Manila keeper Cedric Hodreal for Cebu's fourth goal of the championship match.
Not to be outdone, Hamed Hajimehdi scored on a penalty kick after being fouled inside the box, as Manila once again cut the difference to 4-3 in the 35th minute mark.
Manila had several chances to equalize in the final minutes, including a volley from Borromeo which went above the crossbar, and a strike by Mateo Yuhico that went wide.
Ultimately, a counterattack from Cebu sealed the victory with an assurance goal from Maquiling, making it a brace from the booter out of Sacred Heart Ateneo de Cebu.
"We worked hard for this tournament. We trained for two months. We believed and we knew nothing could stop us," said Kore. "For me, it's also my first time to play in a tournament like this, going against some professionals, UFL, and PFL players, so it was a good challenge for me."
Kore was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Cebu's keeper, Bennydick Saligan, took home the Best Goal Keeper of the tournament plum while Hajimehdi won the Golden Boot Award after scoring five goals in Day 2 alone.
They all received gift certificates from Garmin.
Cebu had a dominant start to the Kampeon 7s Cup, beating Manila, 4-2 and Pangulo F.C. of Davao, 6-2 on opening day.
They lost to the Bacolod F.C. Monte Dons, 3-2 to begin Day 2, but advanced to the final on better goal difference in the table.
Maharlika F.C., on the other hand, had to score a bunch against Pangulo F.C. in their final match of the elimination round to make up for the goal differential.
They did in convincing fashion, with Hajimehdi converting on four goals while Mateo Yuhico adding two more for a final scoreline of 10-4.
Manila forged a championship battle with Cebu, which the latter won.
Leylam F.C. took home a cash prize of PHP25,000 along with the championship trophy.
"It was a great event. There was a lot of excitement. Congratulations to Leylam F.C. We knew Cebu was going to come out strong. They have been together for a while. It was a very fun and competitive tournament,"Del Rosario, the 7's Football League founder, said.
All youth division trophies were won by way of penalty shootouts, with Sugod Malaya dominating after taking home both the U11 and U13 titles.
Sugod Malaya beat Bohemian Sporting Club, 2-0 for the U11 crown before edging G8 Academy in the U13 division, 3-1.
Tuloy sa Don Bosco Foundation prevented a triple crown as they won the U15 title over Sugod Malaya, 6-4 (3-1 penalties) after an intense exchange in regulation time.
G8 Academy salvaged the U9 championship, edging Bohemian Sporting Club, 4-3 (3-2 penalties).
Aside from the tournaments, the Kampeon 7s Cup also partnered with One Big Fight Cancer Awareness Drive, an initiative of former Philippine women's football team member Belay Fernando, to raise funds for cancer patients.
Games were held with proceeds going to the foundation's GoFundMe account.
Autographed jerseys from top athletes like Rachel Ann Daquis, James Younghusband, and Sonny Thoss were also raffled off for donors.
The success of the first Kampeon 7's Cup will only set up the stage for bigger tournaments in the future, as the 7's Football League brand is already in touch with Batangas, Laguna, and Iloilo for the next edition.
"That's what we are trying to do. We are trying to build the football out here and that way to do it is to get people who want to grow football in different places and partner with them. The more we do it more collectively, the more successful it will be," said Del Rosario.
Del Rosario also bared that Season 4 Manila, which is tentatively set to kick-off on Sept. 8, is expected to have 12 men's teams, eight men's second division teams, 12 women's teams, and four youth division tournaments divided into three phases throughout the season.
An ambitious ASEAN 7's Cup project involving Brunei, Singapore, and Malaysia is also in the works.
"We need to be able to create dreams for the kids, and to provide dreams for the kids is creating an angle, and the angle we want is for them to play for their country. When this ASEAN 7's goes down, we will be able to create a platform for the youth all the way to the national team."
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