BANGKOK – After losing in its bid to host the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup Final stage in 2014, the Philippine Football Federation is now setting its sights on hosting the qualifiers for the tournament next year.
According to PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, the AFC has already assured the country of the rights as a consolation for losing the bid, won by Malidves.
“They said we can host one qualifier. Hopefully we’ll be able to host it,” said Araneta, who arrived in Thailand’s capital city on Friday afternoon in time for the Azkals’ last group stage match in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup against Myanmar.
The four-nation qualifying stage, which stakes two slots to the final round, is expected to be staged at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Three more qualifying stages will be held in three other countries, with the eight finalists vying for a spot in the more prestigious AFC Asian Cup in 2015.
The Azkals, who had their best finish in the tournament in March this year when they claimed second runner-up honors, in Kathmandu, Nepal, will know which countries will be bracketed with them next month.
As for the AFC’s decision to award the rights to Maldives, Araneta will request a formal inquiry on how it was made.
“They told me that Maldives has made bids several times in the past so the sentiment was given to them,” Araneta said. “But I want to write the AFC a letter just to make some clarifications on how the decision was arrived at.”
“I don’t mind losing as long as it’s fair,” he added.
"It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the hosting of the final round of the Challenge Cup, but it doesn’t matter if we have to go through the qualifier because we are prepared to go through that,” Azkals team manager Dan Palami said. “In fact, it is also good that we have to go through that because we’ll have more games in our schedule.”