ALREADY expected to have a full complement of players, the Philippine men’s football team could also have the home crowd by its side when it competes in the in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May.
Slated in the Maldives during the Fifa (International Football Federation) international break in the third week of May, the tournament for emerging Asian footballing nations could be moved to the Philippines if the original host country fails to “start required renovation work” next month.
The AFC Competitions Committee proposed the change in a recent meeting, giving Maldives until December 15 to start renovation of the stadiums, according to a story posted on the AFC website late Monday.
Aside from the Philippines and Maldives, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan are the other countries that advanced to the final stage of the Challenge Cup.
The Philippine Football Federation, which successfully lobbied for the rescheduling of the tournament to Fifa-sanctioned dates, expressed delight over the development, saying it could be a boon for the Azkals, who will have the likes of Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, and Roland Muller available for selection.
“If it happens, it will be very good for the team as they will have hometown crowd and for Philippine football as seven teams will fly in for the event,” PFF general secretary Edwin Gastanes told Spin.ph from Kuala Lumpur where he and PFF president Nonong Araneta are to attend the AFC Awards Night.
AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Hamad Al Khalifa announced in his visit to the country two weeks ago that the prestigious annual event will be held in Manila next year.