FIFA president Gianni Infantino (2nd from left) presents Sen. Manny Pacquiao a football jersey. Also in photo are (from left) PFF chief Mariano Araneta, FIFA Foundation CEO Youri Djorkaeff and former congressman Monico Puentevella.
FIFA chief sees bright future for Philippines football
Olmin Leyba (Agence France-Presse) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Visiting International Football Federation (FIFA) president Gianni Infantino urged Filipinos to tap their natural sporting passion to reach their full potential in the beautiful game and develop into a major player internationally.

“The potential is there, the talent is there. You have in the Philippines a great passion for sports in general and as a sporting nation,” said Infantino, in town for a two-day official visit.

The FIFA boss met the Philippine Football Federation’s board led by president Nonong Araneta and general-secretary Edwin Gastanes yesterday at Sofitel, where the federation made an audio-visual presentation on football’s progress in the country.  

The day before, Infantino and his entourage paid a visit to boxing icon and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, whom the FIFA may collaborate with in the future.

“I’m very positive about football in the Philippines. I mean, already if you see the most recent results in the last year or two with (World Cup) qualification, in the Asian Cup for (both) men and women as well...The Philippines is much more competitive the last couple of years and I’m shown that some work is done and that some progress is made. 

“Look at the size of the country – 110 million people and there’s talent on the field as well. I’m sure the Philippines will play a key role in the future, certainly in the ASEAN but also in the world,” he said.

With Filipinos’ talent and passion, Infantino said he’d love to see the Azkals crashing the World Cup further down the road.

“Certainly, we want to see the Philippines in the World Cup or at least fighting very close to be in the World Cup,” he said. 

“For this we have also increased the number of teams for the World Cup. From 32 to 48 (men’s) and for the women’s from 24 to 32, because we need to increase the participation. We need to make it truly global and we need to increase the level.”

Infantino was in awe of Pacquiao, one of the greatest Filipino sportsmen.

“I’ve been watching him. He was telling me that he’s getting up at 2 a.m. watching football matches while we get up at 2 a.m. to watch his encounters. He’s a great sports person. He’s a world legend,” said the FIFA big boss.

“He will make a difference in the Philippines, I’m sure about that. And I encouraged him certainly to focus not only on the Philippines, even though it’s a big country because he has a role which goes beyond the boundaries of a country, as a world personality. 

“So I’m very very happy for having met him.  Surely we’ll catch up again. And hopefully, we’ll do something together in this country. He will certainly do it. And if we can help him a little bit,” the Swiss-Italian executive said.

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