By FRANCIS SANTIAGO
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s bid to build a national football stadium that meets international standard got a boost after a private entity said it was willing to donate 4.5 hectares of land to the Philippine Football Federation (PFF).
PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta declined to reveal the identity of the private group, but sources said the head of El Shaddai, Mike Velarde, had broached the idea of donating a parcel of land in Paranaque for the purpose.
Only the finer details are reportedly being ironed out such as if the place will also be used for religious purposes or whether it is exclusive for football.
It was earlier reported that FIFA, the international football federation, was willing to help the PFF build its own stadium if the place will be used exlusively for football for at least 20 years.
Araneta said if the donation of land will push through, it will fast track PFF’s plan to finally have “home” stadium that can host huge international events.
“Maybe in two months, after we meet with them (donors) and seal the deal, we can submit the (site) report to FIFA for approval,” Mariano said.
Araneta said FIFA is willing to give as much as $500,000 (about P21.5 million) to help realized PFF’s dream project.
The PFF had earlier eyed the Philsports Arena in Pasig City as the site for the project but it could not get the Philippine Sports Commission to commit the facility for the exlusive use of football.
Right now, the 15,500-seater Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City stands as the country’s lone venue fit to host international tournaments but on a Southeast Asian level only. Araneta said to host SEA level events, a football stadium must accommodate at least 15,000.
Last December, the Philippines lost its chance to host its “home” game against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals after AFF officials believed that the Panaad Stadium is not fit for such an event.
The Panaad Stadium, which can accommodate as much as 18,000, served as a satellite venue for the 2005 SEA Games and the Palarong Pambansa
The Panaad Stadium will host the Azkals’ AFC Challenge Cup qualifier against a Mongolia on February 9.