LOCAL FOOTBALL will have it challenging as long as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic remains a going concern for the country. But stakeholders remain hopeful that in due time some semblance of normalcy can be achieved.
Speaking at the newly launched Heroes of Halftime with Audris Romualdez podcast last week, Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Nonong Araneta and Stallion Laguna FC owner and coach Ernie Nierras said like everybody in the local sporting community, football has been made to adjust greatly in light of the episode with the highly contagious COVID-19.
While the current situation is unfortunate, they said, it is completely understandable that sporting affairs have to cease for now and allow more pressing concerns to be given priority.
“At the moment all sporting activities are cancelled. Sports are taking a backseat and they are the last priority,” admitted Mr. Araneta.
Messrs. Araneta and Nierras said given the cloud of uncertainty over COVID-19, it remains to be seen when the football machine can really be back in full throttle but from their end they said they are ready to go back and continue the sport’s push when conditions permit it.
The PFF, Mr. Araneta said, is committed to continue promoting football by way of the Philippines Football League (PFL) and grassroots programs and age-group tournaments they have lined up in different parts of the country.
The PFL was reset to commence this month, from an original schedule of March 21, but with the enhanced community quarantine still up on different areas, including the National Capital Region, it is set to be pushed back anew.
Mr. Araneta, however, said that if and when the PFL gets under way it will be without fans in the venues in compliance with the social-distancing guidelines of the government as a mitigating measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The PFF president also said plans are also up to put a football academy in Carmona, Cavite, to further cultivate available talent.
For their part, Mr. Nierras said work continues for Stallion FC despite the delay in the start of the PFL.
“Myself and our team trainer we created a program even before the pandemic where the players can continue training. The players train on their own and they are obligated to video their training so we can track them and their progress,” said Mr. Nierras.
“It’s challenging but it’s not a problem. They are professionals and they know what to do. But definitely they miss playing. We are looking at this as a new opportunity not a problem,” he added.
As to what lies ahead, Messrs. Araneta and Nierras said it is important for the community to come and work together to set the football push back on track. Help from other sectors, too, would go a long way.
“Hopefully the government can come with the guidelines not only for football but sports in general to allow things to continue,” said Mr. Araneta.
It is something that Mr. Nierras shared while also highlighting there are no longer boundaries under the “new normal.”
“In the new normal there are no boundaries. There is no expertise specifically for one thing. People have to realize we have to work together, the business industry with the sports association and what have you. From a football perspective I like to believe things will only get better,” said the Stallion FC coach. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo