Scouts for the Suzuki Cup have ruled that the venerable Rizal Memorial Football Stadium (RMFS) in Manila is unfit for matches of the tournament featuring national football teams of member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The biennial Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup is accredited by FIFA and this year’s edition is supposed to be hosted by the Philippines.
The event is not going to happen, not in the country, that is, with organizers saying recently that, for one, the seating capacity of the Rizal stadium on Vito Cruz Street in Malate falls short of the FIFA standard.
The stadium seats a maximum of 13,000, excluding the bleachers section.
Strange verdict from the Cup honchos, considering that the more than half-a-century-old RMFS, in recent years, was the venue for many a football clash between top Asean teams, including the Philippine Azkals and their big rivals from Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Even the LA Galaxy led by superstar David Beckham had no complaints about the venue built in the early 1950s when they played there a few years ago and winning against the Azkas, 6-1.
Major League Soccer could have pulled out of the match if the RMFS was below par but that it did not spoke highly of the qualifications of the Philippines’ premier football stadium.
The Rizal Memorial Football Stadium may look ancient but, for regional tussles, it was to say the least reliable, accessible and fairly comfortable for internationals or friendlies.
The decision to look somewhere else for a suitable host country with an equally suitable main stadium should be music to the ears of property developers, who have supposedly been coveting the land where the RMFS sits.
The land is prime real estate, in the heart of Manila, easily reachable by jeepney, bus, private car and mass-transit train—a fairly good mix that favors construction of malls or condominiums.
The entire Rizal Memorial Complex that boasts of sites for almost all sports on the Olympic calendar) itself is also supposedly being eyed by groups to whom history and sports are evidently Greek.
Sadly, even before the Suzuki Cup scouts came to town, nobody in the Philippines’ sports firmament has defended supposed plans to get rid of the Rizal Memorial Complex in the interest of “development.”
When the government demolished the iconic Jai Alai building on Taft Avenue, also in Manila, many years ago, nobody also gave a squeak.
To date, where the building once sat, none has been built.
Bulldoze the complex and you bulldoze dreams of athletes who may be forced to train in private sports venues for a fee.
Sure, way to go for “development,” sports or whatever.