FIFA recognizes Araneta

IN a welcome development, the International Football Federation (FIFA) has recognized Mariano "Nonong" Araneta as the new president of the Philippine Football Federation, replacing Jose Mari Martinez who was booted out during the PFF Congress last Nov. 27.
The FIFA decision, contained in a two-page letter dated Dec. 20, 2010, was sent by facsimile to PFF General Secretary Ramon Manuel, a copy of which was sent to Malaya via email yesterday.
The letter, signed by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, noted the validity of the PFF Congress that ousted Martinez for "unauthorized disbursement of PFF funds, falsification of public documents and failure to return missing funds." Copies of the letter were also sent to Alex Soosay, general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation; Johnny Romualdez, PFF chairman emeritus; and Martinez.
The letter carried an opinion rendered by Geoff Thompson, chairman of the Association Committee and FIFA vice-president, who said that after going through the minutes of the PFF Congress last Nov. 27, he was of the opinion "the decision of the PFF Congress to remove and replace the PFF President (Martinez) was taken according to the PFF Statutes."
Araneta, in an interview yesterday, said the decision "is a vindication of what we have done.
"We have been supported by PFF members and we are very happy with the decision," he said, adding: "We have to move forward and continue with our program."
The FIFA decision, which also confirmed the designation of Ismael Batiles as the new PFF executive vice-president, means Martinez and his fellow officials will now be recognized in various international football events, including the AFC elections set Jan. 6 next year.
In his last act before his sacking was confirmed by the FIFA, Martinez waived the country’s rights to host the first semis game between the Philippines and Indonesia in the recent Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, saying the country has no pitch that meets international standards.
Despite appeals from the new PFF leadership, the AFF ruled that both semis games be held in Jakarta. Indonesia went on to win the first match last Thursday 1-0 and prevailed by the same score in the second match last Sunday to advance to the finals against Malaysia, which beat Vietnam in the other semis showdown.
Despite their defeat, the Filipinos, also known as "Askals," left Jakarta with heads held high, aware they have stamped their mark in Southeast Asia’s premiere football tournament.
Up next for the "Azkals" is the AFC Challenge Cup, a tourney for countries ranked way below FIFA standings.
The Challenge Cup is a home-and-away series, with the first round pitting the Philippines against Mongolia on Feb. 9 and March 15. If the Philippines beats Mongolia, it will advance to the next round against Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh. (Jimmy A. Cantor)