The Philippine Football Federation, in conjunction with its official partner SMART Communications Inc., formally launched on late Wednesday morning the 2012-2013 edition of the PFF-SMART National Club Championships.
More than 30 different local football assocations (FAs) scattered all across the Philippine archipelago are participating in this competition, which has been subdivided into eight clusters. Three clusters are already underway this week, in Baguio City (Baguio-Benguet, Laguna, Oriental Mindoro, Rizal, Tarlac and Cavite), Malaybalay in Bukidnon (Bukidnon, Butuan-Agusan del Norte, Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental, Iligan-Lanao del Norte, Surigao del Norte) and the ongoing UFL Cup, which serves as the lone cluster for the NCRFA.
A couple more clusters begin their competition one week later, in Naga City (Camarines Norte, Legaspi City-Albay, Masbate, Naga City-Camarines Sur, Quezon, Batangas) and in South Cotabato (Maguindanao-Cotabato City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat), while the remaining clusters (Davao for Mati, Davao and Davao del Norte; Dipolog City for Misamis Occidental-Ozamiz City, Zamboanga, Zamboanga del Norte-Dipolog and Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian; and Dumaguete for Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental) have their matches in November.
The Visayan cluster will have its top two teams automatically get berths in the Round of 16. The Luzon and Mindanao clusters will have regional competitions scheduled later in November in Laguna and Davao respectively. The top two finishers of the regionals will join the aforementioned two Visayan finishers to comprise the six provincial-based slots in the Round of 16. The remaining ten slots will be taken from the eight teams who made the knockout phase of the UFL Cup and the two best third place finishers in the UFL Cup's Group Stage.
The Round of 16 matches will be played on January 12. The matchups will be determined via a draw. The six provincial teams are automatically slotted in as home teams, so the Manila-based teams will be going to the provinces, ostensibly to help with the growth of the sport in the provinces, especially since most, if not all of those who have worn the nation's colors are based in Manila. From this point onwards, it is a knock-out system all the way to the championship on February 2.
PFF Competitions Committee head Cyril Dofitas did not definitively say about television coverage for the competition, but it is something that can be considered in the knockout stages. He is thrilled that the PFF-SMART Nationals is building on the growth of football especially in the provinces, as it shows that there is national interest in the sport.
SMART Sports manager Epok Quimpo expressed the re-commitment of the telecommunications group with the sport of football, noting the contributions of SMART head Manny V. Pangilinan in building the sport. In addition, the tournament is seen as a means of institutionalizing local leagues, something the PFF is looking to assist clubs by providing seminar thanks to the Asian Football Confederation.
Global FC, then playing as Teknika, won the competition last year. They beat SMART-San Beda in two legs at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. SMART-San Beda then was bolstered by the likes of Phil and James Younghusband, Roxy Dorlas and Ref Cuaresma, who then moved to Loyola Meralco Sparks FC after the conclusion of the tourney.