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Official Review by Chuck Utech, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The spirit of competition, sportsmanship and all out effort is on display in the Philippines by the United Football League (UFL). Unfamiliar with this version of the UFL? This will catch you up to speed. The UFL was founded in 2009 and features two divisions of football clubs that compete in two competitions per season. The first is the United Football Cup, a single elimination tournament open to all teams regardless of division. Second is league play, which is round robin competition between the individual divisions.
Philippine Army F.C. was a founding member in the UFL. They however have been in existence since 1960. The team is generally composed of, but not limited to, members of the Philippine Army.
Unlike soccer in the United States, there are no home pitches. Since the doors opened, Emperador has enjoyed being the main venue for the UFL.
Emperador Stadium is a quaint venue situated in a burgeoning part of Metro Manila. The venue is bolstered by being in a first class neighborhood with easy access to shopping, dining, nightlife, museums and more. It certainly is worth a stop whether just for a football match or as part of an entertainment experience.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are no concessions at Emperador Stadium. Food and non-alcoholic beverages, however, are allowed inside. With plenty of area restaurants and convenience stores to choose from, one would not be surprised to see sushi, hot dogs, spaghetti and more being washed down by water, soda, tea or coffee.
Access is gained through the main gate at the northwest corner. Tickets can be purchased online or at the main gate. Seating is 100 Philippine Pesos (PHP) for sideline seating along the west side, and 50 PHP for seating behind the south goal. The current exchange rate is approximately 43 PHP to 1 US dollar which allows great value for athletic entertainment. No ticket is given, but a hand is stamped to allow access in and out.
Bleacher seating is available in both sections and there are no reserved seats. Due to this, as well as the sideline seating being covered, I would recommend that as a first choice when visiting (especially during rainy season from June-November).
The score is posted manually behind the south goal. There is no music or PA announcer during game action. Lighting is superb. Sight lines of the entire pitch are generally unobstructed.
The field is located fairly close to Ninoy Aquino International Airport. How close? Well close enough that a jet flies overhead every three to four minutes. The engine noise is loud, but not a real distraction.
Nestled in the far south end of McKinley Hill, a gated community within Fort Bonifacio, the surrounding area is top shelf. McKinley Hill is a development of the Megaworld Corporation, and features an overall theme of Italy. This community is very secure. In addition, it features many restaurants to enjoy while visiting.
Want to experience the taste of New York City while in the Philippines? Try L.E.S. (Lower East Side) Bagels. Craving authentic European cuisine? Try the Bavarian smoked sausage at Wursty Wursty. Just want fast food? No worries. McKinley Hill houses both a McDonald's and Jollibee (the Philippine equivalent).
Many call centers have offices located in McKinley Hill such as Cognizant and Wells Fargo. The sidewalks are filled with professionals heading to and from work at all hours. Security is highly visible.
Within a five minute ride of McKinley Hill is Market! Market!, a large shopping complex with over 500 shops. The area is of historical significance; the complex sits on the site of the former site of the General Douglas MacArthur Staff House.
Also a short ride from McKinley Hill is the Mind Museum, a science center with more than 250 interactive exhibits.
Football is not the main sport of the Philippines. It does take a back seat to basketball and boxing. During a weekday doubleheader, fewer than 50 fans were in the stadium at any one time. There are no chants. Fans are attentive and supportive, but are individually heard during the course of play and don't have much impact on the game itself.
Emperador Stadium is easy to get to, whether by taxi, bus, or jeepney. A 30 minute taxi ride is approximately 175 PHP. There are bus and jeepney stops nearby. For visitors unfamiliar with the area, I recommend a taxi which can drop off immediately outside the field.
There is public parking outside the stadium, but it is generally full at the start of the match. In the more residential section of McKinley Hill just 2-3 short blocks north, street parking is available.
Inside, the venue is very handicap accessible. There are plenty of security guards and attendants to ensure a pleasant experience.
Smoking? One is allowed to leave and re-enter by showing the hand stamp.
Views outside the stadium are a mixed bag. Immediately north is the Wells Fargo building. The south stands are fenced off and surrounded with barbed wire to separate McKinley Hill's community from Taguig City.
A UFL Match is a worthwhile experience. One can travel, sit midfield, enjoy food and beverage of their choice and a couple matches for under 600 PHP (about $13 US). The entertainment level is high for the cost. With the amount of other entertainment available in relative close proximity, a family can enjoy a variety of events capped by football action.
Although there are no concessions, programs, or formal tickets, the ability to bring in food and drink of choice is a plus.
Restrooms are easy to access and are clean.
While the fan base is sparse, the overall environment is supportive, family-friendly and fun. A match at Emperador Stadium is pleasant. It is a newer facility in a great area. Good memories can be had by football supporters of all types: novice, casual and the hardcore.
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