By Francis Santiago
The Philippine Azkals will soon have a practice pitch they can call their own.
The International Football Federation (FIFA) has approved the grant of $500,000 (roughly P21.7 million) to transform the Philsports pitch into an artificial turf as part of Fifa’s Goal Project 2 for the Philippines.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano ‘Nonong’ Araneta Jr. said Fifa approved the grant after it was satisfied with the draft of the provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement entered into by the PFF and the Philippine Sports Commission.
The PSC, which manages the pitch, has agreed to have an artificial turf installed in the 10,000-seater Arena in Pasig City.
“We (PFF and PSC) will have to sign the MOA again on Sept. 1, but it’s only for formality because the draft has already been approved by Fifa,” Araneta said.
Under the agreement, the PSC will turnover the management of the turf to PFF officials for the next 25 years.
But Araneta said the $500,000 Fifa grant for artificial pitch won’t be enough, and the PFF may need to shell out $100,000 (P4.3 million) more to cover for the cost of construction.
The PFF had earlier proposed the Parañaque lot of charismatic leader Mike Velarde as the site for the project, but Fifa thumped it down after it found some kinks in the provisions proposed by the Velarde group in the MOA.
The Fifa also found the site unfavorable because it is located in the flight path of airplanes going in and out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The grant comes as a big boost for the Azkals, who don’t have permanent practice area and only use alternately the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium and the pitch at the Alabang Country Club as training site.
Meanwhile, Araneta said Vietnam has turned down the invitation of the PFF for an Oct. 9 exhibition match against the Azkals at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
But Araneta said they will not stop at looking at the other available teams as they have now invited Bangladesh and Oman. They have also invited India for an Oct. 6 friendly clash, but has yet to reply. Published in Manila Bulletin