Originally published by Manila Standard
This was the immediate reply of Nonong Araneta, the Philippine Football Federation chief, on The Designated Kit Man’s query on the question above following news that India has been suspended by FIFA due to third-party interference. The ban makes it impossible for India to participate in any international matches or tournaments, including its league champions.
Football fans in the county got excited following India’s suspension as it opens the door on the Philippine Azkals being able to play in the 2023 Asian Cup. The Philippines is next in line in case one of the 11 teams that earned spots in the tournament proper after the Mongolia qualifiers fails to do so. Following this development, it can’t be helped that this news might have serious implications on our football fortunes in the near future. Or even now.
Nonong, however, cautions everyone not to expect too much from India’s suspension yet. He says the Asian Cup won’t happen soon and there is the possibility that India will address its suspension even sooner. If this happens, then the possibility of the suspension being lifted earlier might also happen.
“Ang rule book kasi ang nasunod sa India suspension. So hindi sila puwede magparticipate in any competitions now as of the moment. May isa silang club nasa Uzbekistan so hindi makakapaglaro ‘yun. Pero what if they comply with FIFA? Sa FIFA naman kasi automatic ang suspension pero ‘pag nag comply ka puwede rin ma-lift ang suspension,” Araneta explained.
When it comes to the Asian Cup next year, Araneta said that a lot things can still happen between now and then. The hosting of the competitions is one of them, which is not decided yet following China’s decision to withdraw from hosting the biggest football event in the continent.
“Ang nagbi-bid kasi ngayon ay Korea, Qatar and Indonesia. Kung Korea or Indonesia ang mananalo, the Asian Cup will be in June or July next year. Kung mananalo ang Qatar, for sure hindi ‘yan June or July, kasi mainit sa Qatar nu’n, it will be probably in November,” Araneta said.
Araneta said there will be an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) meeting on October 17 in Kuala Lumpur to discuss on India’s Asian Cup fate and the Philippines, too.
“Baka ang mangyari niyan they put a deadline na by this time next year for India and the next (country) in line, makakasama na sa Asian Cup. Depende na rin ‘yan sa Competitions Committee. But AFC follows FIFA, so there is a possibility that FIFA will give a timeline to India and it has to comply within the timeline. I feel FIFA will give India a deadline. ‘Pag hindi nag comply ang India sa deadline or hindi pa na-lift ang suspension nila, then the AFC will decide that India will not participate in the Asian Cup anymore. But for now, that’s all speculation,” Araneta added.
For the meantime, Araneta said it would be better for all to just wait for the final decision of the AFC to be fair to India and to avoid unnecessary confusion and raising of high hopes that the Philippine Azkals might be back in the tournament for the second consecutive time via the back door.
Whether the Azkals participate or not, that is no longer in our hands. Honestly, I hope India fixes its problems soon and settle its concerns with FIFA the soonest possible time. To be fair.
Which comes to mind the big day tomorrow in the domestic front.
The Azkals Development Team or ADT will face Maharlika FC tomorrow, 3 p.m., at the Rizal Football Stadium. The ADT vs Maharlika Manila FC fixture is a part of a rare triple-header in the ongoing Philippines Football League tournament.
The ADT is hoping to bounce back from their opening-day loss against title favorites Kaya FC Iloilo. The team’s morale is quite high with football icon Stephan Schrock leading the charge as the heart and soul of the young squad. Off the pitch, there are some interesting developments too.
Team Manager Josef Malinay says talks are ongoing with several possible sponsors that have shown interest in supporting the team in the ongoing domestic league. He also added that they have extended invitations to the decisions makers to watch the games in person or live to fully appreciate the game, soak in the atmosphere or simply to relax.
“Our goal really is to bring more support to the team, not only to the Azkals Development Team but to the senior team, the Philippine Azkals, as well. By inviting these sponsors to the games, they can see that football is alive and well in the country and they can really help make the games more exciting and convenient for the fans. Aside from helping sustain the momentum football has gained in the past few months, these sponsors can see for themselves that they can benefit too from the sport,” Malinay explained.
Malinay said sponsors too can see for themselves the future of the Philippine Azkals in the ADT with several standouts having the chances to be called in the senior team that will see action in the Mitsubishi Electric Cup set to unfold in December this year. Formerly known as the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Mitsubishi Electric Cup is the biggest football event in Southeast Asia before this year ends.
As of now, Tender Bobs and Fireside of the Meat Plus Group, Family Rubbing Alcohol and Mr. Freeze have pledged their support to ADT’s game against Maharlika by sending food packs and other goodies to the boys. Coca-Cola might even join the fray soon. Malinay is hoping that this will be the start of something big and positive for the team which is not lacking in promise and potential in making the lives of other teams in the tournament difficult. Due to the pandemic, food is so hard to come by the stadium with nearby establishments close, undergoing renovations or are no longer in business. So foodpacks and other things are always welcome for ADT.
“We have to start somewhere and no matter how small the help we get, these will be much appreciated and hopefully, more will come in the coming days,” Malinay added.
Kaya wil face Mendiola FC 1991 in the second game at 5.30 p.m., while United City FC will battle Dynamic Herb Cebu FC at 8pm for the night cap.
And speaking of something new, Alex Conejos Jr. or more specifically, his Lex Wellness Products, have been the subject of endorsements made by notable sports personalities in the country of late. These prominent athletes such as Alvin Patrimonio, James Younghusband and many more are endorsing Lex’s massage therapy balms for muscle aches and relaxation, blood circulation, back spasms, gout, and more. For more details, please check Conejos’ Facebook page.