MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has formally accepted the offer of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) to host the “home” game of the Philippines against Indonesia in the Vietnamese seaport city of Ho Chi Minh on December 16.
“We have notified the Asean Football Federation (AFF) that the Philippines has accepted the offer of the Vietnam Football Federation as the venue of our ‘home’ game against Indonesia,” PFF president Mariano Araneta announced Friday.
“We also notified the VFF before hand that we are graciously accepting its offer to host this match at a neutral venue,” said Araneta, who added that the federation was now awaiting the AFF’s reply as of posting time.
“They (the AFF) are now taking up the issue even as we speak,” he said.
Araneta said that the decision to agree to Ho Chi Minh as the “home” venue was done in consultation with national men’s team manager Dan Palami, who announced the offer Wednesday night at a press briefing shortly after the squad arrived from the airport.
“VFF President Nguyen Trong Hy flew all the way to Hanoi before we left to inform us that Ho Chi Minh is available for our ‘home’ game against Indonesia,” Palami.
“The VFF offer was very generous,” said Palami, who disclosed that the VFF agreed to pay for in the air fare, hotel and all the other needs of the entire contingent during their 3-day stay in the city formerly known as Saigon.
Palami said he was pleasantly surprised by the VFF chief’s proposal, considering the Filipinos had upset the Vietnamese, the reigning champions, 2-0, in the just-concluded Group B tournament held in the Hanoi,
Despite the loss, Vietnam still emerged Group B champion after eliminating Singapore, 1-0, while the Philippines took second place, as both squads advanced to what were supposed to be home-and-away semifinals.
But the AFF said on Thursday that the Philippines would not be able “to play a leg of their semi-final or subsequent final at a home venue due to no available stadia in the country meeting the requirements for the AFF Suzuki Cup.”
The decision was done “after careful consideration and talks with the relevant parties,” the AFF said.
The AFF then posted the venues of the Indon-RP match on the official Suzuki website that same day where, announcing that the semi-final matches would be played in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
“We are hopeful that the AFF will accept our proposal to have Ho Chi Minh as the neutral venue,” Araneta said.
Simon McMenemy, the Philippine team’s British coach, on Wednesday said that not having to play in the country was “massive disappointment for both myself and the boys who worked so hard so they could play in front of their countrymen.”
“It’s painful and heart-breaking that we won’t be able to in front of Filipinos,” said McMenemy, citing the match’s importance not only for the team but also for the sport in the country as well.
“What a huge impact it would have been for Philippine football had we played here,” said Filipino-British striker Phil Younghusband.
“Marinig mo lang ang mga kapwa mo Pilipino na sumisigaw para 'yo, nakakaalis na ng pagod,” said veteran booter Ian Araneta of the lost opportunity to see action in front of hometown fans.
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