“SO, shall we do it?”
An informal dinner between Philippine men’s national team manager Dan Palami and officers of the Cebu Football Association last Thursday night has led to a move that is sure to excite the Cebu football community—a planned friendly between the Philippine national team and Thailand, or another regional power, on Nov. 15 at the Cebu City Sports Center.
And it won’t be just an ordinary friendly, it will be the final tuneup match of the Azkals before they leave for the Suzuki Cup, which, two years ago, helped kick off the love affair of the Philippines with football.
During the dinner, it was mentioned that the CCSC football field was undergoing renovations and that one of the plans for its opening was to hold a friendly game involving the Azkals.
“We could have the September friendlies here,” Palami told Ricky Dakay, the new president of the CFA.
When told that September would be too near, Palami said he can have the Nov. 15 friendly—a Fifa designated date when clubs are required to release their players to their home countries—in Cebu.
Palami said he has long planned to have the Azkals play the strongest team in the other bracket of the Suzuki Cup on Nov. 15, to gauge the squad’s preparation.
The draw for the Suzuki Cup will be on July 11, so Palami will know by that time which team to invite. The Azkals have already played two friendlies with Suzuki Cup defending champion Malaysia and three-time finalist Indonesia.
The first hurdle the potential match will face is the pitch, and that is something the CFA will work on.
“Everything else, the support, the hotels, the transportation, these are already in place, the only problem is the pitch, whether it can pass international standards,” Dakay said.
Dakay, who is also involved in the construction of the University of San Carlos stadium set to open later this year, said he will consult with Mike Madamba on whether the CCSC pitch, which is on the final stages of its renovation, can host an international football match.
Madamba is the man behind the renovation of the Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch and was also hired by Dakay to oversee the USC Stadium pitch.
If the field doesn’t pass the international standard, organizers of the game would be
looking at spending P1.8 million for renovating the CCSC field.
“I can shoulder half (the cost of the renovation), I can look for sponsors for it. The rest will be up to Cebu,” Palami said.
Dakay, who operates a construction business, said he is also willing to help expand the seating capacity of the CCSC, which is currently at 10,000.
“We can easily make it 12,000 by adding temporary bleachers,” said Dakay, who added the CFA is also prepared to make the CCSC lighting conform to standard.
Palami requested that fans, especially those not based in Cebu, will be assured that they will have seats.
And it it could be one advantage the CCSC has, as it is used to hosting, and selling tickets for, a jam-packed crowd during the Sinulog festivities.
Palami also requested that two practice fields be made available for a friendly and the CFA has identified three—the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, the Aboitiz Sports field and the Don Bosco Boys Home in Liloan.
“This will be an advantage for Cebu as the game will be shown live, all over the country, and in the US through TFC,” Palami said, adding that it will also be aired live in the opposing team’s homeland.
“So, let’s make it our project. Nov. 15.”