2016 Philippine Football Year End Review Jan 1, 2017 4:44:19 GMT 8
Post by cjeagle on Jan 1, 2017 4:44:19 GMT 8
2016: A Year of Some Achievements and Some Setbacks
Icko De Guzman
For Philippine Football Federation President Mariano Araneta, 2016 was a year of “some achievements, and some setbacks.”
Philippine football took a massive stride forward as the Azkals defeated DPR Korea last March 2016 in a thrilling encounter in the country’s final match in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. The win gave the Philippines an outright spot in next year’s AFC Cup 2019 Qualifiers.
However, setbacks later in the year left the team wounded as they failed to advanced to the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in six years.
“It’s a setback,” said Araneta of the Suzuki Cup campaign. “But we could see that it was a tough (tournament) with finalists Indonesia and Thailand in our group.”
The PFF president and AFC Executive Committee member also stated that fan attendances during the Philippine’s hosting of the Suzuki Cup was a setback. The Suzuki Cup averaged around 3,500 people at the Philippine Sports Stadium, a far cry from our ASEAN neighbors who have stadiums filled to the rafters.
“Even if (the Philippine Sports Stadium) is nice, accessibility (to the Stadium) remained as the fans’ major concern,” recounted Araneta. “Rather than travel to the stadium for two hours, fans would prefer watching the game on TV.”
Still, Araneta considered the Suzuki Cup as a success citing Indonesia’s participation in the final. By 2018 the Suzuki Cup will have a different format and will see teams play two home games and two away games.
“We will have more games (in the future),” added Araneta.
Araneta also hailed the year’s developments at the grassroots level. Recently the PFF received the AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football (for Developing Countries). The PFF’s grassroots project, named Kasibulan, was relaunched in 2012 and is getting support from PAGCOR, MVP Sports, Smart, and Philam Life Foundation.
The fruits of Kasibulan have paid off with the Under-14 Girls’ runner up finish in the AFC Under-14 Girls Regional Championships and the Philippines Under-22’s scoreless draw vs Malaysia Under-22.
“The recognition should motivate us to do more. We thank all those who helped us promote grassroots football in the Philippines. The award is meaningful as it shows that we are on the right track in developing the youth. As a developing football nation, we consider the grassroots as the lifeblood and the future of Philippine football,” said Araneta on the PFF website.
The next year will prove to be another exciting one according to Araneta. The draw for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 will be held on January 23 and the Philippines has the luck of avoiding stronger opponents.
“We’re in the top tier so we won’t face the strong teams,” said Araneta. “We have a chance (of qualifying for the Asian Cup).”
Another target of Araneta is to bring games to the provinces. The last time the Azkals played in the province was in May 2014 when the Philippines played Malaysia at the Cebu City Sports Complex in Cebu City. A new stadium is in the works in Cebu, while the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Negros Occidental might also be considered if the facilities are improved.
“We might move out the games outside of Manila but it will still depend on the board’s decision,” Araneta said. “We hope to have a place where fans can easily go to watch the games. It’s a big factor for the players and it boosts their morale.”
Also in the pipeline is the formal launch of the Philippine Football League which is scheduled to kick off in late March or early April 2017. According to Araneta, six teams have already confirmed their participation to the League with a seventh team “still in the works.” JP Voltes FC was the sixth team to apply for the League.
“90% of the teams have already confirmed,” said Araneta. Global, Ceres, Kaya, Loyola, and Stallion were the first five teams to have confirmed their participation to the League.
The Asian Cup qualifiers, the Philippine Football League, and the grassroots program are all expected to keep Philippine football in full swing in the coming year. Also, the participation of the Philippines in the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup, and the South East Asian Games this coming year proves that football is on an uphill but still promising track.