The Young Azkals during the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila Morales
Philippine football eyes return to pitch
Luisa Morales ( - June 3, 2020 - 1:35pm

MANILA, Philippines – As the country begins to ease quarantine measures, sports is attempting to make a comeback after a prolonged hiatus due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With most parts of the country now under the more lenient general community quarantine, Philippine football is already taking steps toward returning to the pitch.

Speaking in Tiebreaker Vods' Crossover Podcast on Tuesday, Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano "Nonong" Araneta laid out the federation's return strategy.

Araneta told host Cedelf Tupas that the PFF had already submitted protocols to Games and Amusement Board chairman Baham Mitra to give to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for a possible resumption of football games.

"We submitted it last Saturday evening, and yesterday (Monday), it was submitted to the IATF," Araneta said.

"It is now being reviewed by a group of people... We submitted a 27-page document and hopefully, IATF will allow us, our clubs, to practice," he added.

Once the clubs are allowed to practice and will not encounter any problems, the federation will look into resuming competition.

"We utilized the FIFA documents also, the risk assessment and [how] to start football in each country," the football chief said.

Araneta says that the resumption of big football leagues like the Bundesliga, and the upcoming return of the Premier League later this month, shows that maybe the Philippines can follow suit.

"Of course, number one that we have to consider is the safety of our players... But it has been shown in other countries that has been worse-hit than the Philippines, they are starting their leagues, they are starting their practice sessions," he said.

Araneta also pointed out the wide playing area for football will make it safer than most contact sports like basketball and volleyball.

"You are talking about 8,000 square meters area of land and only 22 players will play. So it is not a congested area for players and we will do the necessary tests even before the practice sessions," Araneta said.

"We will install disinfectants and all this safety equipment or whatever, which will allow the players to practice safely," he added.

Local leagues and international competitions like the Philippine Football League and the AFC and World Cup qualifying tournaments have all been on hold since early March due to the health crisis.

Collegiate football matches in the UAAP and the NCAA were also cut short.

Should the IATF grant the PFF permission to start its return strategy, it will be the first team sport to do so.

The IATF had earlier released a resolution on what sports are allowed to take place during the general community quarantine.

Among those are running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian and skateboarding.

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