By Bong Pedralvez
The Rizal Memorial Football Stadium will be the venue of the Philippine Azkals’ Asian World Cup qualifying series home game against Sri Lanka on July 3, according to Philippine Football Federation general secretary Chito Manuel.
Manuel said PFF president Mariano Araneta informed him of the decision last Wednesday evening, adding the match will start at 3:30 p.m. to do away with night lights.
The first game of the series will be played in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on June 29.
Manuel said Araneta decided to hold the game at the Rizal Stadium after Philippine Sports Commission chief Richie Garcia furnished him with a report submitted by the Department of Public Works and Highways, whose engineers inspected the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, including the football stadium, last February.
“Based on the DPWH report and the recommended repairs on the stadium, the PFF has decided to hold the match in Manila,” Manuel said, adding San Miguel Corp. has committed to fund repairs at the Stadium.
“San Miguel made a commitment to fund the stadium repairs and we already had a PFF official tour the facility last Wednesday to determine what needs fixing, including the grandstand seats and bleachers,” he said.
Manuel said included in the list are provisions for adequate locker rooms for the competing teams, rooms for the match commissioner and referees plus a room for the post-match briefing.
The stadium, which last hosted an international match in the 1991 Manila Southeast Asian Games, can reportedly accommodate more than 20,000 people.
“We will make our formal letter today to officially notify the Asian Football Confederation tomorrow on our choice of venue for the World Cup qualifying match,” said Manuel, referring to the April 15 deadline given by the AFC.
Araneta earlier said the PFF is optimistic it could raise P5 million to P6 million from the ticket sales of the Philippines-Sri Lanka game, the first international match to be played by the Azkals in the Philippine capital.
The Panaad Sports Complex in Bacolod City, which hosted the ACC qualifying match between the Philippines and Mongolia last February, was considered as an alternative venue.
But the PFF balked at the added expense of transporting and providing accommodations for both teams in Bacolod.
Araneta said the association was not expecting any subsidy from the AFC or the International Football Federation for the hosting chores. Source