1. The race to the league title is not a sprint, it is a marathon
In the UFL’s case, it is an 18-game marathon.
Stallion was quickest out of the gates, winning four out of its first five games and scoring a whopping 19 goals along the way. The sight of the newly-promoted team topping the league table after five weeks caught everybody by surprise, and showed a new competitiveness in the UFL.
Not a few team managers, however, privately questioned Stallions’ lasting power. “Division One football is very different from UFL Cup football and second division football. Stallion might be in for a surprise.”
In the end, the doubters were proven correct as Stallion hit a bad patch and eventually bowed out of contention for the title.
By then, however, Stallion earned the respect of the league en route to a highly respectable fourth-place finish.
On the other hand, Global certainly didn’t have the best of starts, going down 2-1 to Philippine Army Fritz & Macziol in its opening fixture. Consecutive victories against Pasargad FC and Nomads Auction Manila would be offset by a disappointing 4-3 loss at the hands of the Loyola Meralco Sparks. That loss, however, would be the last taste of defeat for the side of Azkals team manager Dan Palami all season.
Bucking the sudden departure of coach Graeme Mackinnon, Global finished the season with an amazing 14-game unbeaten run, including a convincing 5-1 win against Kaya.
Global delivered when it mattered, gaining seven out of the nine possible points in the last three games. The 3-1 win over eventual fourth-placed Stallion Penson was followed by a comprehensive 4-0 thrashing of defending champion Philippine Air Force Phoenix before the title-clinching draw against Loyola.
Contrast those results to that of Loyola, which capitulated when it mattered the most. At one point, the Sparks had the chance to win the league if they won all their remaining matches. A last-minute loss to arch-nemesis Air Force and a late equalizer to Nomads put an end to any title aspirations.
Global, if only for its impressive and strong finish, surely deserved to be champion. As any self-respecting runner would say, it is not how you start; it is all about how you finish.