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Originally published by GMA NEWS ONLINE

For veteran booter Stephan Schrock, it’s the ‘either you win or you learn’ mantra.

Schrock’s United City FC was one of two Philippine clubs that just wrapped up their respective campaigns in the AFC Champions League. His team finished in third place of Group I with four points off a 1-1-4 win-draw-loss card while Kaya FC-Iloilo went 0-0-6 in Group F to end in last place.

And though neither team advanced to the next round, Schrock was firm in his belief that these stints were simply necessary steps in the process of achieving their ultimate goal, which is to match up with the powerhouse clubs in Asia.

“Obviously, our group was the hardest by far. So therefore I’m very proud of the 4 points we gathered in this ‘group of death’,” Schrock told GMA News Online in an interview.

“When everything is back to normal, I believe we can upset powerhouses and with a bit of luck in the group drawings, we can even advance into the knockout stages.”

Schrock believes that the Filipino clubs, who were competing on the Asian-level Champions League group stage for the first time, didn’t get to show their best in the tournament after not having played competitive football in a while.

“We haven’t played because of the COVID-19 situation. Other countries, for example Japan, Korea or Thailand, could play their domestic leagues prior to the AFC Champions League,” Schrock added.

“You need fitness and a rhythm to be at your best.”

But even then, United City was able to pull off some surprises in their debut on this stage.

UCFC opened their campaign with a draw against Beijing FC to share the points on the Group I standings. In their penultimate game of the tournament, a rematch against Beijing, they rallied from 0-2 down to notch the first-ever win for a Philippine team on this level thanks to goals from Mark Hartmann and Bienvenido Marañon, 3-2.

They, however, fell prey to Daegu of South Korea, 0-4, to wrap up a lessons-filled campaign in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Nonetheless, Schrock said their journey in Uzbekistan will only help them in the Philippine Football League (PFL) season this year.

“It’s a big plus that we have had very competitive games ahead of the season – that shortens the break for us and gives us and Kaya a head start in the league,” he explained.

Prior to joining the prestigious meet, UCFC claimed its fourth PFL crown after dispatching Stallion-Laguna FC in the championship round last year, something it hopes to replicate with the experience gathered from this Asian stint.

“We will produce another masterpiece in the domestic league.”

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