Venue woes defer Azkals-Asean tiff

By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 16 2014 08:40 AM | Updated as of Feb 16 2014 04:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Asean Football Federation-organized charity match between the Phl Azkals and the Asean All-Stars will likely be played late March or mid-April instead of the originally planned February playdate.

According to Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta, venue considerations are forcing them to push back the exhibition that’s intended to raise funds for victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

The Rizal Memorial Stadium is currently unavailable as it undergoes rehab and installation of artificial turf. Panaad in Bacolod City is also being considered but logistical concerns stymie the choice of the football-crazy region as site.

“We don’t know when Rizal will be ready. Panaad is okay but they (AFF) preferred to play in Manila due to logistics,” Araneta told The STAR.

There’s also a possibility that the Azkals versus Asean All Stars match will be held abroad, probably Jakarta, Araneta offered.

“Wherever we can raise more money, we’re okay to play there. The bottom line really is how much we can raise with this match,” said the PFF chief.

He is confident the charity match will be finalized soon.

“Most likely it will be held by end of March or just before Holy Week,” Araneta said.

Although an exhibition, the Azkals can consider this as part of their tuneup for the May 19-30 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in Maldives, an opportunity to gain more time improving cohesion and adjusting to the style of new coach Thomas Dooley.

So far, the PFF has set two international friendlies for the Azkals, against Malaysia in Malaysia on March 1, and against Azerbaijan in Dubai on March 5.

Araneta said the plan is to arrange seven or eight total matches for the Azkals before they bid to win the Challenge Cup and advance into the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.