Playing for passion–and P1–underdog Maharlika shows its true worth
Maharlika Manila’s roster is littered with easily ignored standouts playing on a P1 salary.
After just two games in the Philippines Football League, highlighted by a stunning 2-1 upset of Stallion-Laguna FC on Saturday, those players have more than proven their worth—and have made people take notice.
“Our goal scorer Jeremy Theuer broke down thanking the club because its been three since he played. Our striker Gary Epesso already got contacted by an agent in Thailand,” said Anton del Rosario, the former national team member who owns the team and plays for it. “Tondo-born Michael Libre, who is 19, is a man nobody knew about but is now being asked about by other clubs.
“Mateo Yuhico showing he wants a spot on the Azkals; Jose Montelibano scoring goals against a top club proving he’s got determination … I’m extremely proud of the team and I enjoy sharing every moment on the field with each of them.”
With the win, the team is no longer a mere passion project with token contracts.
Maharlika is also a threat in the title chase in the six-team, single-round series sanctioned by the Philippine Football Federation and presented by Qatar Airways.
Montelibano (52nd) and Theuer (74th) delivered the second-half goals for Maharlika, which trailed at halftime, but Del Rosario made sure to take note of everyone’s contributions to the team that was formed just four months ago and got its club license two months ago.
Dingdong Fornea. Henri Fong. Yannick Tuason. Even Serge Kaole, who left the football bubble after getting injured during a 1-0 loss to Kaya last Wednesday got a shoutout from Del Rosario.
Indeed, it was a special moment for the club to get its first official victory.
“To all the guys not here or didn’t get on the team, your time will come. Everyone is important. What a team effort,” Del Rosario said.
The sterling victory reverberated during the entire match day, almost stealing the thunder from the expected romp crafted by United City FC (UCFC), which crushed Mendiola 1901 FC, 6-0, in an afternoon encounter.
UCFC hardly missed the services of Manny Ott, who was red-carded in a previous match against the Azkals Development Team.
Bienve Marañon completed a hat trick for UCFC, Robert Mendy had a brace and Mike Ott added a goal for good measure in the rout.
But even that goal spree couldn’t take away the chatter from the morning match.
“Words cannot express how happy I feel about this victory,” said coach Roxy Dorlas after the match at PFF National Yraining Center field in Carmona, Cavite.
“One of the things that Anton del Rosario told us when we formed this squad was to produce positive results and gain the respect of the big clubs and this is what we did today.”
Down 0-1 at the break, Maharlika came charging back in the last 45 minutes to net two goals from Montelibano, a substitute, and Theuer for the milestone victory.
Senegalese midfielder Ibrahim N’Dour knocked in the opening goal for Stallion-Laguna with a clinical finish inside the box in the 28th minute.
But, with three starters missing, Stallion faded in the second half allowing Maharlika to get back into the match.
Cameroonian goalkeeper Henri Bandeken had another stellar outing at the net and was named Man of the Match.
Stallion-Laguna FC assistant coach Richard Leyble acknowledged that fatigue set in for his players in the second half but praised his rivals for the way they never gave up when they fell behind.
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