MANILA, Philippines – Huge renovations are underway this year for the Rizal Memorial Stadium – Manila's main football turf – as the Philippines hosts the 2019 Southeast Asian Games starting November 30.
Rizal Memorial has been listed as the main venue of the men's football event, but it does not meet the stadium regulations of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
"[The Philippine Sports Commission has to] improve the stands and conform to AFC regulations. Starting 2019, you cannot use a stadium without any individual seats," said Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano "Nonong" V. Araneta in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas.
"When we played in our last game [against] Tajikistan, we were only allowed to sell tickets for the grandstand side, but not the other side because there was no individual seating. That’s the reality of football now – the venues have to conform to standards."
According to Section 5 of AFC stadium regulations: "All spectators shall be seated. Their seats shall be individual and separated, affixed to the structure (eg. the floor) and comfortably shaped, with backrests to provide support."
On the other hand, the SEA Games women's football event will be held at the Biñan Football Stadium.
The PFF ruled out New Clark City as a venue for football because of the absence of practice pitches around the area.
The University of Makati (UMAK) pitch is also undergoing renovation as it's eyed to be one of the practice venues along with the pitches at the University of the Philippines, Far Eastern University- Diliman, and Carmona.
"But I hope that Rizal will be fixed not just for the SEA Games, but also for the future because we’ll be having our World Cup qualifiers starting in October – it’s going to be a home-and-away [format]," added Araneta.
Araneta also believes that renovation of the country's football stadiums will attract fans to support the sport due to the added viewing comfort, with shaded bleachers and seats among the new features. (READ: Bernie Sumayao looks to transform Philippine club football)
"We really have to do something about our infrastructure to attract the fans. Nasanay na fans na natin sa comfort. Pampered na ang mga fans (The fans got used to comfort. They are really pampered now.)." – with reports from Beatrice Go/Rappler.com