By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines - With the Philippines waiting in the wings, Maldives is doing its best to make sure it’s capable of hosting the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in May.
Officials in Maldives said they would fast-track renovations of their facilities and finish them in time.
Maldives Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jameh told www.maldivessoccer.com that work on the two proposed venues – the national stadium in Male and the Seenu Atoll Hithadhoo zone stadium in Addu City – would begin next month and should be completed by March 2014.
Delays in the renovations had put Maldives’ hosting in jeopardy and prompted the AFC executive committee to consider moving the Challenge Cup to the Philippines.
An AFC delegation inspected the progress in Maldives last week but the Asian body has yet to provide details of its latest findings or recommendations.
“We are confident that we will have the chance to host the Challenge Cup and we will be ready for that,” Maleeh was quoted by the website.
The minister added that Maldives will be hosting the draw ceremony for the eight-nation final round “as scheduled” in mid-February.
“I’m extremely confident that we can pull this off. For the sake of the youth, we will do everything we can to host the tournament in Maldives,” he said.
The Philippine Football Federation is seeking to bring the Challenge Cup to the Philippines to boost the Azkals’ chances of winning the crown and its corresponding qualification slot in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
It is eyeing the Rizal Memorial Stadium, which is also undergoing renovation and installation of an artificial turf, as site. Representatives from the AFC had already inspected the site last month in case there’s a need for an alternate venue.
Rizal Memorial is expected to be ready to host any event by March 2014.