INSPIRED by the rise of European football nations from the COVID-19 shutdown, Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Nonong Araneta is hoping the country will soon see its football clubs at least resume practice.
"Hopefully, the IATF will allow us, our clubs, to practice and this is just for the first phase," he said in an interview on the Crossover Podcast with Cedelf Tupas.
The PFF has previously submitted a 27-page document to the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) and to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) detailing its guidelines and protocols for the gradual return of the sport on the pitch.
Araneta said that the federation took everything in consideration when they made the proposal, taking note of the 19-page Fifa document which serves as guidelines for national federations for the return of the sport, which was done in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO).
The government recently allowed indoor and outdoor non-contact sports and fitness activities under general community quarantine.
Team sports like football and basketball have been pushing for their clearance as federations have already submitted their proposals to the IATF.
Araneta noted that if their initial plans get a green light, it won't be long before football matches also return.
"The second phase is to play. If there’s no incidents in the practice sessions, then maybe we can resume the playing phase," he said.
The amiable executive said that the Philippines Football League (PFL) clubs have been receptive to the proposal, noting: "Yes, they want to play. And the players want to play."
"We are starting just the PFL first with the clubs. We are not starting with the provincial teams cause it's a different case. The approval will come from the LGUs and they have to do again the protocols for each regional football association and we will play football after that. If we are successful with the clubs, then we will go to the provinces to present those things."
Part of those plans, Araneta said, is to hold all training sessions at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite.
"No. 1 that we have to consider is the safety of the players. If it’s not safe for the players, then we might as well not start it. But it has been shown that in other countries that have been worse-hit than the Philippines, they are starting their leagues and they are starting their practice sessions," said Araneta.
Germany's Bundesliga has resumed play, while teams in Spain's La Liga and the English Premier League have been allowed to practice ahead of season resumption later this month.
"These are countries that have worse cases than us," he said.
"And talking about football, we are in an open area. You are taking about 8,000-square meters area of land and only 22 players will play. So it is not a congested area for players and we will do the necessary tests even before the practice sessions. We will install disinfectants and all this safety equipment or whatever, which will allow the players to practice safely."
In Araneta's eyes, the viewed return to action will have to start somewhere.
"As what we said, let us practice first, then let’s see from there," he said. "From practice, whether we can play after practice or maybe one month of practices because the athletes need to practice. If I am an athlete, I want to go out and play, and if my safety is guaranteed, I might as well play than just stay home."