BY BONG PEDRALVEZ
NATIONAL team manager Dan Palami is hoping the Azkals could get a crack at the Rizal Memorial Stadium football field in early June before they leave for the final phase of their training in Germany for the first leg of their World Cup qualifying series against Sri Lanka on June 29.
"We have asked the Philippine Sports Commission to have the pitch ready after we return from our team-building in Cebu in the first week of June since we have one more week of practice before leaving for Germany," Palami said in the PSA forum last Tuesday at Shakey’s UN Ave. "We have to take advantage of that."
"I’ve been there and I’ve seen the pitch is almost ready," Palami added of the venue that last hosted an international tournament during the 1991 Manila Southeast Asian Games and will be the site of the nationals’ return match against the Sri Lankans on July 3.
He said there were still some holes that needed to be filled to prevent players from getting injured.
"Once these holes are repaired, we believe the field will be playable. I think that it is something that can be done in two weeks," he said.
Palami added San Miguel Corp. has committed to fix the seats and bleachers of the 26,000 capacity stadium.
An aide of PSC Commissioner Chito Loyzaga, who was tapped by PSC Chairman Richie Garcia to oversee the repairs, said SMC personnel have visited the stadium and started mapping out plans for the repairs.
Palami also said tickets for the July 3 return match will only be made available once the seating arrangements are finalized, adding this is needed to avoid the overcrowding that marked the Azkals’ game against Mongolia last February at the Panaad Sports Complex.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr. earlier announced tickets would be issued through Ticketworld.
"San Miguel will have to make the seating plan first, not only on the main grandstand but also the surrounding bleachers, including demarcation lines between each ticket holder," Palami said.
Asked if he expects the Rizal stadium to be filled for the Azkals’ first match in Manila, Palami replied: "I believe mapupuno iyon. Hindi pa nga nagbebenta ng tickets yet my Facebook account is being filled with inquiries on how to get them.
"May nagpapa-reserve ng 50, ng 100—I hope they are not scalpers–but I don’t think sponsors will be interested kung hindi kayang punuin. But the indicators are there."