Kaya GM Tolentino: 'We had the best team'

Photo: Facebook / Kaya Futbol Club

 by Drew Malihan

MANILA - Kaya FC-Iloilo's general manager Paul Tolentino knows he got the squad he knew is the best one assembled for the Philippines Football League.

"From the beginning of the league, i firmly believe we had the best team, and I wanted them to believe it," said the 41-year-old.

And Kaya showed what they can do, topping the league for much of the season and clinched the PFL title for the first time in club history after a 3-1 win over Stallion Laguna FC.

"Now they don't just have to believe it, they can feel it," Tolentino added.

It was a long time coming for the team's GM.

"It took a long time but it's very worth it. It feels like extra gratifying for the group, especially there is a lot of challenges for Kaya this past 16 months, 18 months," Tolentino said, noting the financial struggles the club faced during the season. "But we pretty much carried a largely homegrown squad and they were still able to get the job done."

He do note that the homegrown players did more than what they can do to lift The Lions' campaign together with their foreign reinforcements.

"The foreign players did their job, but all the local players more than adequately did their job and exceeded expectations," Tolentino said.

And so the locals did showed up for the occasion with Jarvey Gayoso, Eric Giganto, and Jhanjhan Melliza in the Golden Boot race, and Arnel Amita joining both Giganto and Melliza in the Golden Ball race. All three Kaya keepers who suited up for the season in Zach Banzon, Kenry Balobo, and Quincy Kammeraad teamed up for eight clean sheets.

But he lauded praises as well to Daizo Horikoshi, who lead the team and the league to get both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot.

"He has put on the hard work. He had been with us since 2020," Tolentino said about the Japanese, who joined the club in 2020. "He's put in a lot of hard work to  really improve himself and I'm very pleased for him."

He knew it will be a difficult task to keep Horikoshi, who previously played in Singapore in his first professional stint.

"We'll try. But we're also very excited for him. We're also actively pushing that he gets a chance in a league outside which he deserves to be in," Tolentino quipped.

The GM knew that the Kaya faithful wanted to see their home team lift the trophy inside the Iloilo Sports Complex, but he also knew the limitations to do so.

"We wanted to play there but there are limitations in the league financially. It's not easy for the clubs to be travelling," Tolentino said ."The league allows clubs to speak with the commissioner and got an agreement that matches to be played where it is feasibly possible."

"We'll be in Iloilo anyway," he ended, hinting a possible PFL trophy seeing Iloilo on a future date.

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