Rizal rehab gives way to AFC elims
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will defer its planned construction of the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium to accommodate the staging of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup qualifiers on March 22-26.
The PSC, which controls the Rizal Complex, is planning to convert the field from natural grass into an artificial turf and initially looks at a March schedule for works to commence.
“In the spirit of national interest, we’ll reserve the venue for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and defer construction (until after the hosting),” said an official from the government sports body.
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has formally requested the PSC for the use of Rizal for the qualifiers, which will see the Azkals taking on Turkmenistan, Brunei and Cambodia in Group E. Winner of the group will advance to the final round in 2014 in Maldives.
Previously, the PFF and the PSC had entered into an agreement to make Rizal into an all-weather turf using grant from the International Football Federation (Fifa). However, the deal fell through due to the issue of control of the facility, a requirement from the Fifa that the PSC could not accept.
As it is, the PSC will embark on the P25-million project on its own while the PFF scouts for a new site.
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“The idea is for rugby to be able to use the field as well. We’re looking at the Australian model, wherein both soccer and rugby can play at this field, benefiting not only the Azkals but also the Volcanoes,” said the official.
Meanwhile, PSC chairman Richie Garcia met with Pan Feng, the Cultural Counselor of the Chinese Embassy, yesterday to discuss the planned training stints of Filipino athletes in China.
Part of the discussions was the processing of request for visas lasting up to 10 months for Pinoy bets seeking long-term training in China, especially from wushu, in the buildup for the Southeast Asian Games.
At the same time, Feng told the PSC that Shanghai Sharks, a Chinese club co-owned by Yao Ming, will push through with its planned visit to Manila in May.
“Chairman Richie Garcia will coordinate with the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) and the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) for exhibition matches against a PBA team and or the Gilas national team,” the PSC exec said.