Football

All systems go for Azkals’ World Cup qualifier at Rizal Memorial

Despite the torrential downpour these past few days, the Rizal Memorial Stadium football pitch looks in perfect shape for the second leg of the World Cup qualifying tie between the Philippines and Sri Lanka on July 3.

Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta assured all ticketholders guaranteed seats during the game, saying that everyone will have comfortable seats. The federation spent P3.4 million for the improvement of the stadium, including the renovation of the locker rooms, comfort rooms and the fiberglass seats. Finishing touches are being applied to the bleachers and grandstand seats, where a capacity crowd is expected to cheer on the Azkals against the Brave Reds.

The PFF also assured fans that should the game go to extra time and penalties, the lights at Rizal Memorial Football Stadium will be able to provide sufficient lighting for the match.

Should inclement weather persist on game day, the match referee has the authority to delay the start of the match. He is allowed to postpone the match for 30 minutes, after which the pitch will be evaluated. Should he deem conditions to be unplayable, he could suspend the match for 24 hours.

The Philippines-Sri Lanka match marks the return of international football in the nation’s capital. Last December, the Azkals were forced to play their home game in Jakarta, Indonesia due to the lack of suitable venues in the Philippines. In March, the Azkals played their Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifier against Mongolia at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod in part because the Rizal Memorial Stadium was unsuitable to host the match.

The PFF expects to recoup the expenses of the stadium renovation through ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.

De La Salle University, in a deal with the Philippine Sports Commission, will be in charge of maintaining the Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch, while the PSC will take care of the installed seats after the game.

The PFF also released its guidelines for the public who will be viewing the match live. Gates will open on July 3 at 11 a.m., and spectators are encouraged to arrive early at the stadium for the game. Those bringing cars may park at the parking lot of SM Harrison Place facing Century Park Hotel or along Adriatico Street from Manila Zoo to Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The federation also released a list of prohibited items, among them bottled drinks and professional DSLR cameras. The PFF advised viewers to leave these items at home as security guidelines will be enforced tightly and no storage will be provided for banned items. Food and drinks will be available at the stadium.

Should the Azkals win their qualifier against Sri Lanka, Araneta confirmed that the home match against Kuwait on July 28 will also be played at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Due to the impending suspension of Indonesia by FIFA, one of the group stages of the 2011 SEA Games football tournament could be held in Manila. PFF President Nonong Araneta confirms that should the Football Association of Indonesia fail to resolve their issues, they will be banned from hosting any football matches. Hence, Rizal Memorial Stadium could once again be host to an international tournament before the end of the year.

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