|Four years after being formed, Ultras Ceres is now the hottest ultras squad right now.|
By Xy-Zha Cabanlong
MANILA—Football in the country, as we all know, is developing since that historic “Miracle in Hanoi” in 2010 where the Azkals made it to the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup for the first time in so many years.
Since then, the emergence of football clubs began and their fan base followed through.
It may not be known to many, but the sport is massive in the Visayas and Mindanao – for one, the country considers the town of Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo as the “Home of Football” as the greatest Filipino footballer ever lived hailed from the town, Paulino Alcantara.
Apart from the former FC Barcelona legend, Azkals legends like Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong were also from the same town.
Just like in Iloilo, football in Negros Occidental is also massive, particularly in the capital city of Bacolod where it is home to one of the biggest football club, not just in the country but also in the rest of Southeast Asia, Ceres-Negros FC.
“I’d live and die for my club. I’ll support them 'til I die,” said Jan Eleven Gozon, the capo and founder of the Ultras Ceres.
Gozon’s word has got to be one of the most striking statements a passionate fan can ever say when he speaks about the club that he supports.
Founded in 2015 as a passion project of him and his peers, Ultras Ceres was born out of inspiration from an earlier-founded Ultras group from their now-neighbor team, Kaya-Iloilo FC – the Sons of the Mighty Kaya or popularly known in the football community as the Ultras Kaya.
“SOMK set the pace in building a team’s fan base, we’ll never take that away from them. They inspired us to put up our own. What makes us different from the other Ultras in the community, though is that we always walk our talk,” Gozon explained.
From having only 4 members in 2015, Ultras Ceres now has about 50-60 active members nationwide, making them one of the most solid fan bases of a football club in the country.
Going out on their own to support
|Jan Gozon and the rest of Ultras Ceres' charter members trooped to the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa straight from Bacolod just to show support for Ceres Negros. Jan Eleven Gozon|
With the PFL games being played currently in the pitches of Binan, Laguna, Carmona, Cavite and more recently, Lipa, Batangas, it posted a challenge for Gozon and the other members of the ultras to support Ceres-Negros FC but passion brought them to where the action is.
Booking a plane fare out of Bacolod from of their own pockets, Gozon along with the founding members of Ultras Ceres, Jherque Liper, Romel Concepcion and Fernan Gozon, flew in to Manila this week, with one purpose: to show their utmost support for Ceres-Negros FC, who has not been in their home turf after their AFC Cup fixture.
“Support for the team does not end in Bacolod. We are here because they are here, if only it is possible, we’ll follow them everywhere they go just to show our support,” Gozon explained.
Flying to Manila is not new for the founding members of the Ultras Ceres because they were also there to represent the group when all of the ultras came together to form one unit, to cheer as part of the Ultras Filipinas when the Azkals needed a boost in their AFC Asian Cup qualification game at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on March 27, 2018.
“The experience was awesome. It still gives me the chills each time I remember it, that all-important night turned out to be historic, to which I am glad that I and the group had been a part of. It was all pure passion and joy that night, something that one would like to share to their kids someday – especially when we finally make it big in the international competitions,” Gozon recalled.
It's all in the ink
The passion for the team took Gozon as far as having Ceres-Negros FC team captain, Stephan Schrock and the team’s logo tattooed on him.
“No doubts nor second thoughts when I had Schrock and the team logo tattooed on me. It’s my way of expressing how I would live and die for the club,” Gozon explained.
Gozon shared how Schrock was in awe when he saw the tattoo, just as the rest of the team were when they saw the team emblem, forever etched on Gozon’s skin.
The team and its management, in return has seen the passion that Gozon and the rest of Ultras Ceres has poured out and it didn’t go unnoticed.
In fact, they extended help in the group, in the best way that they could and recognized all of the efforts that the Ultras had exerted just to support the club.
Ultras Ceres is more than just for their club, they are also willing to extend whatever help they could to all of the other ultras that will soon flock the stands of the Panaad Stadium as it once again play as the home pitch of the Azkals for the World Cup Qualifiers, beginning on Sept. 5.
“We are willing to give the same passion in cheering for Ceres-Negros FC to the Azkals when they play in Panaad. I know they are already preparing for the World Cup Qualifiers the same way as the Ultras Filipinas may be preparing. We are just waiting for their [Ultras Filipinas] word but we are definitely ready to defend the home turf,” Gozon said.
Be it for the club or for the country, Ultras Ceres is one of the many groups coming from the football community that exemplifies how beautiful and unity-inducing sports is in general.
Follow her on Twitter: @_ichbinxyzha