MANILA, Philippines—It’s no longer the PhilSports pitch, but the Rizal Memorial Stadium that will be the site for the Fifa Goal Project 3, paving the way for the construction of an artificial pitch and the expansion of the historic venue.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta Wednesday told the Inquirer that the Philippine Sports Commission, which owns both facilities, had requested for a change in location.
“I think its a better venue,” said Araneta, referring to Rizal Memorial, which can currently seat 13,000 people.
“It will be easier to justify to Fifa, which had already approved PhilSports, the move.”
PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez said they plan to transfer the facility of the Philippine Track and Field Association to PhilSports.
“Athletics will benefit from the move as it will also find a permanent home at the PhilSports field,” said Gomez.
Patafa has been sharing time with the PFF for use of the venue with international football matches starting last June.
Araneta revealed plans to increase the stadium capacity to 23,000.
The Patafa will also move out of the office at the side of the RMS while the PFF can also make use of the space covered by the rubberized track for expansion.
“It’s a win-win situation for all parties,” Gomez said.
Araneta said they can turn the Rizal Memorial into a football complex with an office and dormitory.
“We will improve the stadium, fix the dressing rooms and overall just making it a better venue for football.”
The move will also allow the PFF to save money for maintenance as keeping an artificial pitch on shape will only cost P200,000 annually, 60 percent less than maintaining the grass, Araneta said.
The PFF also assured that there will be no conflict with De La Salle University, which has an ongoing agreement with the PSC regarding the use of the Rizal field.
The Taft-based university, which funded the rehabilitation of the pitch, will still enjoy the same benefit as part of its deal with PSC of three hours use of the field per day, Araneta said.
The Rizal field has played an important role in the rise of the Azkals’ popularity, playing host to some of the biggest events of the widely popular team.
The historic match between the Azkals and Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy, which featured global sporting icons David Beckham and Landon Donovan, was held at the ages-old coliseum December last year.
Before that match, Beckham and his Galaxy teammates held a football clinic for children.
Big-time football first made its return to Rizal Memorial when the country hosted a World Cup qualifying match pitting the Azkals against Sri Lanka in June last year.
The following month, another World Cup qualifier was played at Rizal when the Azkals faced Kuwait.
In October, the pitch again played host to an Azkals match—a friendly against Nepal.