GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL. (L-R) Tournament director Edwin Alobin, organizer Rely San Agustin, and Lima Land official Clifford Alemania touch the ball together during press launch of the Aboitiz Football Cup at the Lima Experience Center in Lipa City on Thursday (Oct. 27, 2022). The Aboitiz Football Cup is the country's premier grassroots football tournament to be held from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10 at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa City. (PNA photo by Ivan Saldajeno)

LIPA City – The Aboitiz Football Cup, the country's premier grassroots football tournament, is making a return after two years of postponement due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

The "seven-a-side football festival" will run from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10 at the Aboitiz Pitch here and will primarily feature future stars of the game.

"The success of the Aboitiz Football Cup has been its grassroots program where kids can fulfill their football dreams as they go up the football pyramid," said Rely San Agustin, the tournament organizer who was once part of the national team, during the press launch on Thursday at the Lima Experience Center near the said football field here.

He added that the event's comeback amid the pandemic is a great sign as the world gradually goes back to normal.

"With the Aboitiz Football Cup back in season, this is a healthy sign for the game and staying fit and healthy with life getting back to a sense of normalcy after the lockdown," San Agustin added.

There will be a total of 14 divisions for this edition, the third to be hosted by this city, eight of which cater to the grassroots levels: the mixed 7-under, mixed 9-under, mixed 11-under, mixed 13-under, boys 15-under, boys 17-under, boys 19-under, and the boys 23-under.

Current and even past football standouts will also see action in the Aboitiz Football Cup as there will also be a mixed open, men's open, women's open, veterans 30-39, veterans 40-49, and veterans 50 and above divisions.

San Agustin said Army and Air Force, fresh from getting the top two finishes in the AFP Olympics, are tipped as favorites to win the men's open due to the presence of former Azkals like Joemel Bermejo and Ian Araneta.

Speaking of the Azkals, another former national team member, James Younghusband, will be on opening day as the guest of honor.

"He will be there to inspire the kids," San Agustin said. "That's something to look forward to."

He added that he is targeting about 12 competing clubs per division, but he also said he might expand the field if the demand to join is high.

Meanwhile, San Agustin bared that the Aboitiz Football Cup might invite teams from its old home, Cebu City, to come here next year to compete in the next edition to make up for the long postponement of the tournament leg there. (PNA)