With the entire world of football starting its leagues one by one, the Philippines may soon follow suit as The Philippine Football Federation President, Mr. Mariano “Nonong” Araneta gave some updates on what the federation has been doing to resume football amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his appearance on #EatSleepBreatheFootball podcast last May 28, 2020, Nonong mentioned they’ve been in contact with our ASEAN neighbors and have been constantly exchanging notes on what guidelines they can use if they are planning to start or resume their football leagues.
“Vietnam has started their National Cup last week and South Korea started their league. Hopefully, with the plans to transition from ECQ to GCQ, we can present to Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) regarding football,” said by Mr. Araneta.
So far, as per the PFF president, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) has given them guidelines in resuming their operations in the office while they also got some help from La Liga in terms of the steps to be taken to resume the league.
La Liga is set to resume on the 8th of June where clubs as of posting time have already entered the second phase of their return to football protocols. About a week ago, the Spanish Football Federation have given the green light to the clubs for them to conduct their individual training sessions and this week, started their group sessions.
With this being said, it is most likely the same route that the PFF will follow to allow the clubs ample time to prepare for the upcoming Philippines Football League season. “We have to prepare the protocols. We want to present this to GAB (Games and Amusements Board) and also we would like to solicit the support of the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) so that our league will open,” said by Nonong.
He also said, “Countries that have suffered worst than us like Spain and Germany have opened up their leagues so I don’t see any reason why we cannot also open our league as long as we practice safety for the players.”
The only downside as of the moment that we are seeing is that the possibility of not having the Copa Paulino Alcantara this season due to a shortened period of the football season.
“We will push through with the PFL if they will allow us but of course, it will be a shortened tournament. I don’t think we can have the Copa Paulino Alcantara,” said by Mr. Araneta.
“For the PFL, we want to start. The club owners have paid their players even without the tournament. It’s unfair to the club owners who are spending so much money. Also, the players are raring to go to practice and to play again,” said by Araneta.
“We have suggested to FIFA to maybe help the clubs, financially. We have a reserve in FIFA of more than $2 Billion USD. FIFA decided to spend part of this reserve to help member associations to cope up with the COVID-19.”
The PFF have been working tremendously to ensure a safe return for the players to their training sessions and eventually to the games. Nonong said that Atty. Ed Gastanes, the PFF Secretary General, have consulted Dr. Randy Molo, an AFC and FIFA recognized doctor whose also the consultant for the PSC.
“Sana, we can start the practice sessions by June 15 then after one month of practice, we start July 15 if its favorable to us. These players will not also come into practice if they don’t feel they are safe. We will shoulder all the testing of the players and the officials prior to the practice and the games.”
They are eyeing to play the league matches in the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite, who’s currently under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) since May 16.
Araneta said that the facility in Carmona is the only one that clubs can use for their matches and training sessions.
The Rizal Memorial Stadium couldn’t be used for the time being as it is adjacent to the Ninoy Aquino Stadium which is currently being used as a COVID-19 isolation facility while the Biñan Football Stadium is located near the Alonte Sports Arena which is also being used as a COVID-19 mega quarantine facility.
Araneta also discussed the international matches for the Philippine Azkals which are scheduled this October and November where the Philippines will play against Maldives and Guam at home and an away game against China.
“If we are not allowed to use Rizal, then we will ask the permission of AFC to consider Carmona to be used as our venue although, for stadium regulations, I don’t think it will pass but since there are no spectators to be involve, I think this will be a different situation.”
The same thing might also apply when the AFF Suzuki Cup comes around which is scheduled towards the end of the year. If worst comes to worst, the Philippines might not be able to stage a game here at home and will be forced to play their matches on their opponent’s soil.
The country’s hosting of the 2020 AFF Women’s championship is also halted by the pandemic but updates about how ASEAN football tournaments are to follow as Mr. Araneta mentioned they will be having a teleconference on June 12 about the said matter.
Other than the league, other grassroots football tournaments were also hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic but once things go back to the way they were or if the Philippines can find a way to cope up with the “new normal”, the PFF is eyeing to continue what they’ve started for the age-group tournaments.
There are plans to conduct the U-17 National Championships as well as the U-13 which will bring out the best in the budding talents around the country. All that we can do is to hope for the best for the future of these players as well.