MANILA, Philippines -- United City FC has retained the core of the team that ruled the last three seasons of the Philippines Football League, including their talismanic team captain and top scorer.
The club, formerly known as Ceres Negros FC before being sold to a new ownership group last month, has announced that key players such as Stephan Schrock, OJ Porteria and Bievenido Maranon will remain with the team despite the change.
Schrock is the team's captain, a key fixture in the national team and one of the top midfielders in Southeast Asia. Maranon, meanwhile, was their top scorer from last season and has already netted five times in AFC competitions before sports were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Eric Gottschalk, who represents the new ownership group, said that aside from the players, they have also retained the core of the staff.
"We are maintaining all the staff that wants to return," he said in a recent press conference.
"(General manager) Ace (Bright) has been a superstar, supporting me with the players and with the whole transition," he added. "Big thank you to him. He's been very supportive."
"On the coaching side, the local coaches will remain," Gottschalk also assured.
The ownership group is also in contact with Serbian manager Risto Vidaković, who steered Ceres Negros in their successful campaigns in the PFL as well as in continental competitions.
According to Gottschalk, their issues with Vidaković are logistical, rather than contractual.
"It's not allowed for foreigners to enter the Philippines without a work visa," he explained.
"We hope to have more clarity on that point," Gottschalk added. "We're in touch with Coach Risto, and the intent is to try to bring him back."
Meanwhile, the players are expressing their excitement for the future of the club, which seemed uncertain last month before Gottschalk's group stepped in.
Porteria, in a Facebook post, stressed that while the club's name has changed, their ambitions remain the same.
"I know it must be tough to support a new club," he said in a message to their fans. "But I assure you that our goals haven't changed. I'd love to see our Ultras Ceres supporting United City FC."
United City, along with other PFL squads, has yet to return to training after modified enhanced community quarantine was put in place in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, including Cavite.
All PFL teams will train at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona.
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