Maldives lands AFC Challenge Cup hosting

By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 08 2014 12:17 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2014 08:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Maldives will apparently get to keep hosting rights for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup’s final round in May, a tourney that the Philippines was hoping to get its hands on.

The AFC yesterday announced on its official website that the draw for the Challenge Cup has been set on Feb. 12 at the Island Paradise Resort in Maldives. In the same article, it said the tournament, a qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, will be held from May 19-30 in Maldives.

The announcement virtually shut the door on Pinoys’ hopes of bringing the eight-nation meet over to local soil.

Delays in the renovations at the national stadium in Male and the Seenu Atoll Hithadhoo zone stadium in Addu City had earlier put Maldives’ hosting in jeopardy and prompted the AFC executive committee to consider a transfer to the Philippines.

Apparently, officials of the island nation had got things going and convinced the AFC to stay put.

“I think Maldives was able to remedy their problem,” Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta told The STAR yesterday.

Maldives had assured that they would be ready for Challenge Cup, their renovated two venues is good to go by March.

The PFF sought to stage the Challenge Cup to boost the Azkals’ chances of winning the title of the tournament for “emerging nations” in Asia and qualifying for the top-tier Asian Cup in Australia next year.

The Azkals will seek their objective against Maldives, two-time runners-up Turkmenistan, 2013 SAFF champions Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, and Laos, which will be making its debut in the AFC Challenge Cup finals.