By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

LOOKING to build on the gains that football has achieved under his watch as head of the local federation for the sport, Mariano “Nonong” Araneta is seeking a fresh term as president of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) in elections set for later this week.

Elected for a first term in 2011 after serving as interim head when erstwhile president Jose Mari Martinez was ousted in 2010 over allegations of corruption, Mr. Araneta said that if privileged enough to be given a fresh mandate he would work on sustaining and adding to the progress that Philippine football has made in the last decade.

“I think I’m still needed to oversee all these developments. And I want to see these gains sustained,” said Mr. Araneta in an interview.

Mr. Araneta is going up against Ricardo “Ricky” Yanson, Negros Occidental Football Association president and PFF grassroots committee chairman in elections happening on Nov. 29, part of the agenda for the PFF Congress at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.

The incumbent PFF president made his announcement to run for office anew in October after reports said that majority of the provincial federation representatives expressed support for him and his leadership.

Interestingly, prior to making up his mind to seek a fresh mandate, Mr. Araneta was announced to be the running-mate of Mr. Yanson.

But because of the ongoing company dispute of Mr. Yanson and three of his siblings with their younger brother Leo Rey, the owner of top football club Ceres-Negros, Mr. Araneta felt the unity of stakeholders could be affected, moving him to reconsider.

Mr. Araneta said his journey as PFF president has been a challenging one but something he does not regret taking.

“In my first term we had to start from practically scratch. We had to fix things and the image of the PFF was really bad. We had to rebuild the image of football, its credibility,” said Mr. Araneta.

And while he recognizes more can still be done to make the development of the sport thorough, he nonetheless underscored that they have made things happen in the last eight years.

Mr. Araneta said that they at the PFF enjoy the confidence of international football bodies FIFA and the Asian Football Federation, recognizing their efforts and what they have done, so much so that said organizations have tapped him for key positions.

The former University of the Philippines player sits in the FIFA Council and is the chairman of the AFC Finance Committee.

Through their “capacity building,” Mr. Araneta said, the PFF has produced quality coaches through its coaching certification programs.

These coaches have since gone on to hold football clinics and organize football academies which has enhanced the development of the sport.

The country’s national teams have also carved their places in the international arena under Mr. Araneta, with the men’s team steadily climbing in the rankings and breaking through tournaments it has not gone to before, including the AFC Asian Cup early this year.

The same goes for the women’s team.

The PFF now also has its national football training center located in Carmona, Cavite, which Mr. Araneta said they hope to finally complete, including the dormitories, and move their operations there from their current office in Pasig City.

Mr. Araneta shared that a lot of programs are in the pipeline for the PFF moving forward, including growing the league – Philippines Football League (PFL) – further and complementing it with youth tournaments.

He highlighted that making the PFL, which is set to welcome a new sponsor in Qatar Airways, stronger is very important since it gives younger players a place to aspire for.

They are hoping that with the entry of Qatar Airways more sponsors would come support the league, which recently concluded a successful third season.

The PFF started the Under-15 tournament this year and next year will have the Under-17.

Women’s youth tournaments are also being considered to further grow women’s football to go hand-in-hand with the three-year-old PFF Women’s League.

“We have achieved a lot all these years and we do not want them to go to waste as an organization. This is going to be my last term and I want to help keep the momentum; keep the sport alive and going,” said Mr. Araneta.