NOW that he is finally recognized by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) as the new president of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), Mariano “Nonong” Araneta Jr. said he is prioritizing the training of the Philippine Azkals so the team could join more international tournaments.
After reaching a historic semifinals of the AFF (Asian Football Federation) Suzuki Cup, the Azkals will next see action in Mongolia on Feb. 9 and 16 with more tournaments lined up for the Pinoys including the World Cup qualifiers and the Southeast Asian Games.
However, unlike his predecessor Jose Mari Martinez, Araneta will also focus on the grassroots development including the holding of national tournaments next year for the U19 men’s and U16 women’s.
“Aside from prioritizing the Azkals, we are also planning to hold a national tournament for the U19 men’s and U16 women’s either in April or May. Qualifying will be held in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and we might also be holding a selection then form the national team,” Araneta said.
Araneta also plans to adopt a grassroots development being worked in Iloilo wherein the Iloilo Football Association of which he is also president teams up with the Department of Education (DepEd) in promoting football in the public schools.
“The plan is to incorporate football in physical education (PE) classes, have them play five times a week for an hour while the FA provides the technical know-how,” Araneta explained.
He added that once the Iloilo FA signs a memorandum of agreement with DepEd then he would bring the program to other areas in the country.
As for the funding, Araneta said that he will be tapping the private sectors to help.
Another project that Araneta plans to continue is the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Vision Asia project which was started in Cebu City early this year.
“We are going to send documents to AFC and show them that we have actually started the project so that they could continue sending us the funds. They already sent money to the PFF but we do not know what happened to it,” Araneta said, adding that he will continue to recover the funds allegedly squandered by Martinez.
“We are consulting with the lawyer on what cases to file against Martinez to recover the P2.8 million. We suspect that there are still more unaccounted funds; the P2.8M was only the investments made by Martinez without the approval of the PFF board,” Araneta said.
Araneta was voted to replace Martinez last Nov. 27 during the PFF National Congress after the Board of Governors in a series of meetings adopted a motion to remove Martinez from office when he failed to explain and show documents on what happened to the P2.8M.
However, early this month, Araneta was surprised when Fifa sent a letter stating that they are still recognizing Martinez as the PFF president because they are not sure if Martinez’s ouster was in accordance with the PFF statutes and by-laws.
Fifa, however, went back on its word and in a three-page letter, FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said “the FIFA, backed by the opinion of FIFA vice president Geoff Thompson, validated the election of Araneta, who replaced Mari Martinez.”
Araneta said Martinez could still appeal his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) but that as far as Fifa is concerned the matter is already closed. /CORRESPONDENT MARS G. ALISON
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