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Issues, concerns discussed in Azkals town hall meeting

By JP Abcede

Meant largely as an open forum on how to help market the Philippine men's seniors football team's next two international matches, the Azkals town hall held on February 23 at Beerhouse in Pasig also gave a chance for Azkals manager Dan Palami to clear the air on some issues relating to the squad and to football in the Philippines in general.

Several concerns raised during the two-hour long round table were the stricter standards imposed by the Asian Football Confederation for the hosting venues, the broadcasting of fixtures in traditional and alternative media, on how to coordinate with different sectors to make playing venues more festive and more conducive to fans and spectators, as well as prospects for eventual call ups and the streamlining of the youth programs.

Palami stated that due to the fact that the Azkals have increased its level of play, the AFC is starting to impose more stringent guidelines, and along with that, has mandated for bleachers to have seats before tickets can be released for sale in those sections. He pleaded numerous times to those in attendance and those watching via live stream to help in the endeavor of putting up seats at least in the white section of Rizal Memorial Stadium.

At the same time, he welcomed suggestions on how to put into use the bleacher side of RMS during match day in the event seats cannot be placed in time for the March fixtures. Some of these include putting ad boards, letting the big Philippine flag be unfurled for the entirety of the match, as well as stationing the ultras, drumline, and other cheering and chanting groups there so that the grandstand can be maximized for paying patrons.

The former owner of Global FC also mentioned that at least for the friendly against Fiji on March 22 and the final AFC Asian Cup qualifier versus Tajikistan on March 27, he and the marketing arm of the Azkals are finalizing details of the airing of games through ABS-CBN. He also welcomed the idea of simulcasting the matches through AM radio and online live stream in order to cast the widest net possible and reach the most number of viewers and followers.

As the meeting was set on how to promote attendance for the Azkals' next two fixtures, a considerable amount of time was allotted on how to improve the atmosphere during the match. Some of the suggestions include closing out a section of Adriatico street so that booths for merchandise and concessionaires can be placed to generate commerce and large screens can be set up to accommodate fans who are not able to purchase tickets.

Palami is also amenable to distributing complimentary tickets to residents who live near the venue as well as to students who are studying in schools within the vicinity of the stadium. However, this hit a snag after AFC imposed on having seats in the bleacher sections.

He also would like to have the different chanting groups and cheering squads coordinate with each other so that there would be no overlapping of cheers. If it is possible, he would like all of them to be situated in a single section so that they can augment each other more effectively.

If he would have his way, Palami would prefer to have lesser restrictions with regards to the code of conduct. He mentioned that the Philippine Football Federation put those set of rules in place so as not to incur fines in case of transgressions. Additionally, he stated that the match commissioner also has a say on what to and what not to allow during games.

Finally, fans are also curious on the direction of the national program beyond qualifying for the next Asian Cup. Aside from scouting for talent, Palami mentioned that he wants to envision a more efficient grassroots system. He also said that they would have more intensive training camps and more international level competitions. As member of the Philippines Football League board, he was able to elicit cooperation among the clubs, the league, and other interested parties to make sure that the national team remains competitive.