By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Business tycoon and sportsman Manny V. Pangilinan pledged on Sunday night P1 million to the Philippine football team for its campaign in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
Pangilinan, through Smart Sports, made the commitment when the Filipino booters graced the PBA games at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Filipino football players made it to the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup for the first time recently after stunning Vietnam, 2-0, and forcing draws against Singapore and Burma (Myanmar).
The support comes as a big boost for the Filipinos, who rued their lost home-field advantage for the semifinals after AFF officials deemed the proposed venue, the Panaad Stadium, in Bacolod as not up to international standards.
The Filipino footballers will play Indonesia in the first of the two semifinal legs on December 16 in Jakarta.
“We are very happy with the help of Mr. Pangilinan,” said team manager Dan Palami. “This is a big step in the development of football in the country.”
Palami hopes Pangilinan’s support will open the floodgates for more corporate backers for the team, which had played abroad virtually unnoticed until its historic victory over the defending champion Vietnamese.
“Mr. Pangilinan is happy to help,” said Smart Sports’ Patrick Gregorio. “They need help. It’s time to help.”
The team will make a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacañang at 2 p.m. on Monday, before holding a public training session at the University of Makati field.
The Philippine booters leave for Jakarta on Tuesday.