Philippines all set to host AFF Suzuki Cup
We know that the entire region will be watching us because the Suzuki Cup is the biggest sporting event in Southeast Asia — Philippine Football Federation general secretary Ed Gastanes
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has left no stone unturned to ensure a smooth staging of the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, which kicks off with a couple of matches Saturday at Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
It will mark the first time one of the group stages of the tournament will be held in the Philippines. The Azkals needed to qualify for the semifinals in 2012 and 2014 to bring the Suzuki Cup to Manila.
“We fought very hard to win the hosting rights,” said PFF general secretary Ed Gastanes at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. “We know that the entire region will be watching us because the Suzuki Cup is the biggest sporting event in Southeast Asia.”
Gastanes added that, “everything is set from the stadium, hotels, security and the transportation aspects of the hosting. We are making sure that our hosting will be memorable for the teams and the traveling fans.”
The Philippines faces Singapore at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, after Thailand battles Indonesia in the 4:30 p.m. kickoff. Only the top two teams after the single-round group stage will make the semifinals.
The Azkals clash with the Indonesians on Nov. 22, before going up against the Thais in their last group game three days later.
Making up the other group that will be playing in Yangon are Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and host Myanmar.
Gastanes said the PFF has helped address concerns of spectators with transportation by requesting a bus company to ply the Trinoma-PSS-Trinoma route during match days.
The PFF official is upbeat the Azkals can advance past the group stage of the tournament, noting the team’s solid preparation over the past three weeks after the United Football League season.
The defending champion Thais are the favorites in the group as they are the only Southeast Asian team that qualified for the final round of World Cup Qualifying.
“That’s why our group is considered the group of death because we have the defending champion and the four-time winner here in Singapore. Indonesia has always been strong,” said Gastanes. “But our team has prepared well and I’m sure we will be ready on Saturday against Singapore.”
Gastanes said coach Thomas Dooley is still waiting for confirmation from foreign-based players to join the squad, including Fil-Spanish striker Javier Patino.
Dooley will trim his roster to 23 players a day before the competition starts.