Corporate sponsors back PFF bid to refurbish Rizal Stadium

By Bong Pedralvez

Corporate sponsors, including conglomerate San Miguel Corp., are interested to help the Philippine Football Federation refurbish the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium for the Azkals’ World Cup qualifying match against Sri Lanka on July 3, according to PFF president Mariano Araneta Jr.

Araneta, POC chairman Monico Puentevella, national team manager Dan Palami and SMC representative Noli Eala met with PSC chief Richie Garcia yesterday to discuss the availability of the venue.

“There are many sponsors who are willing to help us stage the Azkals’ match at the Rizal Memorial, and San Miguel is one of them,” Araneta said during the meeting.

Eala, formerly the SBP executive director, declined to issue any statement, opting to leave the meeting to inspect the facility.

“If the PFF believes it can generate income by staging the match of the national team at Rizal, then let’s give it a try,” said Puentevella.

However, he advised the PSC and PFF to have the grandstand bleachers inspected by DPWH engineers to determine their safety and structural integrity.

“If the DPWH gives the go-signal then we can proceed on preparing for the Azkals’ home game against Sri Lanka,” he said.

Araneta said he is willing to follow the advice and indicated he is still inclined to hold the game at the pre-World War II stadium, the first headquarters of the Asian Football Confederation when it was founded in May 8, 1954 during the Manila Asian Games.

He said the Asian Football Confederation gave the PFF until Friday to determine the venue of the match. The Azkals face the Sri Lankans in the opener of the home-and-away series on June 28 in Colombo.

“We should have something definite (about the venue) on Thursday,” the PFF chief said.

After inspecting the Rizal Stadium two weeks ago, Araneta and Palami recommended that air-conditioned tents be set up to serve as the dressing rooms of the two squads. The present dugouts are cramped and have low ceilings.

They also learned water seeped into the flooring of the stadium during heavy rains.

The SMC has had a long historical involvement with the sport. One of its pioneer owners, Andres Soriano Sr., was an avid football buff.

His son, Andres Jr., also had a great passion for soccer and owned the San Miguel squad that starred former national players Bert Honasan, Ramsay Padernilla and Rodolfo Alicante who played in a local commercial league in the late 70s to early 80s.

The younger Soriano also sponsored a youth soccer development program in the 80s and tapped German coach Bernard Zgoll to oversee it. Among the products of that SMC undertaking were national standouts Padernilla, Alicante, Elmer Bedia, Ronel Cajelo and Herman Bingcang. Source