Local Football

The PFF Presidential Election Series (Part 3): Mariano “Nonong” Araneta

As we wrap up this three-part series about the upcoming PFF Congress which will also serve as the election for the Philippine Football Federation President, we got to talk to the incumbent president Mr. Mariano “Nonong” Araneta.

Amidst his relatively tight schedule, Araneta was able to give us a few moments of his time and welcomed us to his office for an exclusive interview regarding the upcoming elections.

From the moment I’ve walked into his office, I didn’t feel any pressure as he welcomed us with open arms and ready to answer our questions. It’s as if as well that he’s not thinking about this upcoming elections and would just like to work harder as ever for Philippine Football.

One of the things he were able to accomplish was to close a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways for the Philippines Football League which would last until 2022. Araneta mentioned some of its fundings will be used for grassroots development as well as the funds allocated by FIFA.

“We’ve already started with the under-15 since that is FIFA-funded. Hopefully, by the entry of Qatar Airways, some of the budgets that we allocate for the league should be spent for the youth or grassroots development.”

In accordance with this, the plans to start the national U-17 tournament seems to be in its polishing state. Not only does the Qatar Airways sponsorship would help raise the awareness of Filipinos to the sport since it is a global brand but also it would make the young ones realize that they have a future in football in terms of making it as their own living.

“If they (Qatar Airways) see that the league gets more sponsorship, maybe we can look for an extension. I have been working on this since April this year. It’s not about the election but it is about stabilizing the league,” said Araneta.

What many people knew was this bid for re-election was not part of Nonong’s plan. With his schedule being busy as it is already since he is a member of the FIFA council, this bid for his third term as the PFF president came due to a more important reason. Here’s what the incumbent president has to say:

His intention to run for the position was not only because he wants to continue what he’s already started but to also avoid football to be used as possible collateral damage in the ongoing rift between his opponent Ricky Yanson and the owner of the country’s top football club, Ceres-Negros FC.

It is a known fact that this dispute among the Yanson family has been ongoing for quite some time now and Ricky’s looking for some sort of leverage against his brother.

Should Ricky Yanson win, there’s a big possibility that the three-time PFL and newly-crowned Copa Paulino Alcantara champions may cease to exist and it will be a huge blow to Philippine football considering they have been the country’s standard flag-bearer in continental competitions.

Talking beyond the issue, president Araneta knew that he still has a major role to play in order for his future plans for the federation to succeed.

He said, “This next four years will be for additional infrastructure and programs. I felt that my presence is still needed to finish all these projects and since it’s my last term, maybe this will be a transition for the successors so that there will be no distractions and in-fighting.”

With Qatar Airways announcing a three-year partnership with the country’s professional league starting next year, Araneta is brimming with optimism that the entry of an award-winning global brand will trigger more support for programs in the country.

In fact, Araneta said the country’s biggest bus company, Vallacar Transit Inc. through its Bachelor and Ceres Bus liners, is sponsoring a national Under-13 league for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Araneta added the competition compliments the Under-17 tournament set to start next year as well as the Under-15 competition which is already in place.

“We’ve worked hard to gain the trust and confidence of companies to support Philippine football,” said Araneta, noting that he has been working on the Qatar Airways sponsorship of the three-year-old PFL since early this year.

The women’s department will also see an increase in competitions with Under-16 and Under-18 regional tournaments lined up, said Araneta, a Fifa Executive council member as well as head of the Asian Football Confederation Finance Committee.

“There’s a lot in store for Philippine football in the next four years,” Araneta said.

Despite laying out all the project he had planned for the improvement of the sport here in the country, as the saying goes, you cannot please everyone. Araneta received quite a number of backlashes from the opposition saying that he really didn’t give much focus to our grassroots and youth development over the last eight years.

This is what Araneta has to say to all his doubters and detractors.

More recently, Araneta has been receiving some backlashes from social media regarding the glitches in the first few days of the 2019 SEA Games. However, the PFF president’s control over the situation was quite minimal as the overall management of the games were being handled by PHISGOC.

“While the Philippine Football Federation has been doing its part by reaching out to private companies and well-meaning individuals to help in the SEA Games hosting, he (Cojuangco) actually had the nerve to discredit our efforts,” said Araneta.

“Vallacar Transit Inc. lent 18 of its newest buses for the football competition upon the PFF’s request. Private donors have come in to help. Actually, Charlie’s help will also be most welcome. For my part, I have been in touch with our national teams trying to augment their needs, while hosting the top officials of other Southeast Asian football federations in the past few days and updating them with the situation which I think has greatly improved. I never ran away and hid from everything that has been happening. As I mentioned in my past interviews, we’re not here to criticize but to help.”

On our previous article, Cojuangco also lashed out on Araneta regarding the 2007 PFF Elections where he said that Araneta asked him to withdraw from the elections to pave way for Nonong’s cause.

Cojuangco then later told that Araneta withdrew from the elections to favour another PFF presidential hopeful Mari Martinez.

“I called up Nonong to ask if the rumours were true. Nonong told me he withdrew in favour of Mari because his daughter was sick. But when I asked him, why he did not withdraw in my favour, he couldn’t answer,” said Cojuangco.

In his statement, Araneta said “Charlie’s withdrawal from the 2007 PFF presidential race happened two weeks before I decided not to continue with my candidacy,” said Araneta. “Charlie withdrew ahead of me because he knew he was not going to win, but why is he blaming me for his decision. I didn’t make any promises. He always had the option to continue his candidacy.”

He then added, “It pains me that Charlie brought up my withdrawal from the PFF elections in 2007 since it was a very difficult time for our family and it saddens me that he opened up old wounds because of politics. I am a father, first and foremost, and my family will always be my priority.”

Amidst all the comments made by Cojuangco to support Ricky Yanson’s cause, I just find it ironic that they say these kinds of stuff a few days before the regional FA leaders decide who will be leading them over the next four years.

If they really wanted to shed light regarding the wrong-doings of Mr. Araneta, they could’ve done that a couple of months ago and not just a few days before the election.

Another thing, they should have real facts regarding their statements and not just mere allegations. Time for some late-game actions should I say?

Nevertheless, Nonong doesn’t seem to be rattled about this and he just wanted to continue the legacy that he has started. For him, football is bigger than anyone else.

As a hard-worker, even if Nonong fails to get his third term as the PFF president, he would still work tirelessly for the sport that we love the most. For him, it is not the end of the world.

“After the PFF presidency, I’d still be involved in football because football is in my blood. For me, football has been my way of life since I started in Barotac. I cannot turn my back on football,” said Araneta.

Towards the end of our exclusive interview with him, he said “I’d still help with my own capacity. Let’s say if the new president wants me to guide him, I can assist with that.”

Over the last eight years, Nonong and his administration have brought Philippine football to greater heights that even in the continent, we are being highly recognized as the fast movers in the sport.

“The image of the Philippines in Asia is very good. The Philippines is being respected in AFC and I don’t want us to lose that,” said Araneta.

That wraps up our three-part article regarding the upcoming PFF Elections this November 29, 2019, at the Century Park Hotel in Manila. We hope that the regional FA leaders will vote wisely as the future of Philippine football is in your hands.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions of this writer do not reflect the views and opinions of his colleague as well as this publication. Furthermore, research has been done and this writer consulted his reliable sources regarding some allegations/statements in this article.

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