Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Azkals to revisit home in Panaad

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for March 29 issue of Sun.Star Cebu)

IF plans push through, Bacolod could be hosting a friendly involving the Philippine national team and China on June 12, and I think it’s about time this football hotbed gets to host a friendly again.

Make no mistake about it, the fans in Manila are great and they really support the national team, but there is something about the atmosphere in Panaad that sets it apart.

I saw one match in the Rizal Memorial Stadium I’ve been to a few matches in Bacolod, including the packed Mongolia game, and one big difference between the two venues is the pre-match atmosphere.

In Rizal, at least during the Kuwait game, fans were still trickling in minutes after kick-off, while in Panaad, fans foolish enough to arrive late couldn’t get in as an hour before the match the venue was already packed. 

Bacolod was going gaga over the national team during the team when everybody thought Phil Younghusband, was, well, a young husband and not the top striker of the national team.

By the way, I have no idea what the PFF is planning to do for the Panaad match, but I hope taking charge of the tickets is one of them because in the last home game in Panaad, I think whoever made the estimate of the venue’s capacity was a little too generous.

We got first row seats but minutes before kickoff there were about five rows of folks ahead of us and during match day itself, I heard horror stories during the ticket distribution because too many fans turned up for too few tickets as, if what I heard was true, these were allocated to a local politico’s allies.

Based on the folks who got into the grandstand that day, I think we were about a thousand or more over the capacity and for folks who couldn’t stand standing for 90 minutes, it was a miserable experience.

I hope, this time, Bacolod takes this as a chance to show it is a good—if not better—alternative to Rizal and not just rely on it having hosted Azkals matches pre Suzuki Cup success when it wants to be considered as a venue for home games because if it doesn’t improve, I fear the city that first fell in love with the Azkals will become a venue of last resort.

As for Cebu?  Politicos were talking about a stadium at the South Road Properties as early as 2004 and eight years later, we’re still talking.

And that’s the best we can do. Talk about the home matches of the Azkals in other cities.

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