January 30, 2018
MANILA – Ceres Negros FC hurdled a visa issue that caused it to almost miss its AFC Champions League Qualifier match today against Tianjin Quanjian FC of China at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium.
Head coach Risto Vidakovic does not want to put pressure on his players heading into their 3:30 p.m. encounter. He wants them to enjoy the experience of playing after facing a last-minute hurdle.
“I’m really proud of my players, especially because we are still not prepared for this game,” said Vidakovic. That’s the good thing for us. Whatever we do, if we get a good result, for us it’s a plus.”
Ceres Negros did not have visas until 2:45 p.m. Monday, a day before the match. The club departed at 5:45 p.m. that day and was set to arrive in Tianjin this morning.
Composing the team are Bienvenido Marañon, Patrick Reichelt, Martin Steuble, Louie Casas, Omid Nazari, Kevin Ingreso, Manuel Ott, OJ Porteria, Stephan Schröck, Manuel Herrera, Carli de Murga, Jim Junior Muñoz, Jeffrey Christiaens, Eduard Sacapaño, Nessi Ramos, Joshua Dutosme, Arnie Pasinabo, Toni Doblas, Mike Ott, Sean Patrick Kane, and Takumi Uesato.
The Chinese squad features the likes of Brazilian Alexander Pato and Belgian Axel Witsel.
“We have to treat the (Tianjin) game like the one against (Brisbane Roar),” said Vidakovic. “We have to enjoy it … and, hopefully, make another history.”
Ceres Negros will also have to deal with the weather as Tianjin is averaging subzero temperatures.
The team is just one win away from making it to the tournament proper after wins over Shan United of Myanmar and Brisbane Roar of Australia in the past two Tuesdays.
Earlier Risto Vidakovic told Fox Sports they arrived from Australia on Friday and had to wait until Monday for the Chinese Embassy to process their visas.
“We must travel overnight, and we will arrive (in China) on match day,” he said. “Without sleeping or anything, we have to go and play the game.”
Ceres Negros appealed to the AFC to delay the knockout match but the organization was not inclined to grant the request.
“Of course, we need more time, and they have to understand that we came from another continent,” Vidakovic said.
“We also … have to prepare the right equipment for this kind of match. The (temperature there in Tianjin) is -11 [degrees],” he added. “We need more time to compete with them on an equal footing.”/PN