THE Philippine national men’s football team will have to wait a little longer before resuming with its joint FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 bid after sport governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to defer matches to next year because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Reset for October and November, from the original schedule of March and June, the qualifying matches had been moved to a later date anew as FIFA and AFC deemed it necessary to protect the health and safety of all participants amid the prevailing conditions with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis globally.  

Affected matches of the Philippine Azkals were those in Group A against Guam (Oct. 8), China (Nov. 12) and Maldives (Nov. 17).

The new schedule of the matches will be announced in due course.

The Azkals are currently in third spot in Group A of the joint qualifiers with seven points built on a 2-1-2 record.

Syria (5-0-0) is on top of the heap with 15 points, followed by China (2-1-1) with seven. Maldives (2-0-3) is fourth with six points while Guam (0-0-5) has no points and is already eliminated in the race.

The top teams in the groupings advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers and earn a spot in the Asian Cup.

The Philippines last faced Syria in the qualifiers in November where it lost, 1-0.

FIFA and AFC expressed hope that despite the postponement of the matches anew, the proceedings would eventually take place even as they said that they are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the region to come out with the right decisions moving forward.

Meanwhile, Serbian coach Risto Vidakovic will not be around when the new season of the Philippines Football League (PFL) kicks off after he confirmed that he will not be the coach of new league entrant United City Football Club.

United City, which took over the spot of PFL champion Ceres-Negros FC, was angling to keep the core of the “Busmen” in its maiden season in the league, including bringing back Coach Vidakovic, for continued competitiveness.

But the Ceres coach shared on a Twitter post on Wednesday night that he is not joining United City. He, however, did not state the reason why.

He did thank the Filipino football fans and Ceres for the “beautiful memories.”

While with the Busmen, he steered the team to the PFL title in the league’s first three seasons and made Ceres one of the top and respected clubs in the Southeast Asian region.

OJ Porteria, Bievenido Maranon and Carli De Murga were some of the players who paid tribute to Mr. Vidakovic. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo