HANOI – A big venue after a big achievement.
Philippine men’s football team manager Dan Palami has raised the possibility of holding the home leg of the semifinals of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki at the newly built Philippine Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Following the Azkals’ 4-0 shutout of Indonesia on Tuesday that secured their place in the knockout stage, Palami mentioned the 25,000-seat stadium beside the Philippine Arena as a possible venue for the next round aside from the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“It all depends, but of course, I think playing in the new Philippine Stadium would be a great experience especially if the fans will go there,” the Azkals boss said. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen (that many) Filipino fans together, cheering for us.”
Palami recalled the biggest crowd the Azkals have ever played before was in the Gulf region where 16,000 Pinoys watched them in a friendly.
“If we could fill up the Philippine Stadium, that would be a nice atmosphere,” said Palami, who started an online poll, asking fans where between the Philippine Stadium and the Rizal Memorial would they want to watch the semifinal home match.
“In so far as allowing more fans to watch the game is concerned, then we’ll go for the Philippine Stadium,” he said as Rizal has a seating capacity of less than 13,000.
Palami said World Sports Group, the Suzuki Cup organizer, has already made an inspection on the new stadium.
“Although it’s not as accessible as Rizal, but if a bus is provided from Balintawak — it’s just a fifteen- to twenty-minute ride — a lot of fans can go without the hassle.”
The stadium sits next to the Philippine Arena - believed to be the biggest domed stadium in the world - inside the vast complex owned by the regilious group Iglesia ni Cristo in Bulacan.
The PBA recently held its opening day at the 57,000-capacity arena, attracting more than 52,000 fans by providing shuttle bus services for fans, courtesy of expansion team KIA Motors.
Palami also cited the grass pitch of the Philippine Stadium as a factor as the Azkals have acclimated themselves playing on grass at the My Dinh National Stadium. Rizal’s field has recently been turned into an artificial turf.
“We’ve been able to adjust quite well to the grass pitch,” he said. “If you look at the two games we’ve had so far, I think we had very good games on grass, so I feel it (PH stadium) may be the best pitch for us.”