Manny Pangilinan puts P80M for football development

MANILA—Showing support for Philippine football, Smart communications, under business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, will invest P80 million to fund a 10-year football development program in the country.

Smart sports head Pato Gregorio and Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano Araneta finalized a deal on Saturday that would establish a Philippine Premier League while extending immediate support to the Azkals national team.

Gregorio, while presenting the plan to the board of governors of the PFF, said the league would probably be like the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) where commercially sponsored teams, composed of the country’s cream of the crop players, compete.

“This is our commitment to Philippine football. We are very serious with this and our chairman, Mr. Pangilinan, is very excited about it,” he said.

He said that the league would also have a PBA-style draft in which the members of the Azkals would be distributed to the competing teams to help raise the quality of the game and maintain competitive balance.

“Other companies like Meralco, Maynilad, and Signal TV-5 will help in putting up the league. Smart will also support some of the teams and this support will be over and above the P80 million commitment,” said Gregorio.

“This is the right time to help Philippine football,” he added.

The Azkals struck the consciousness of the Filipino people last December with a 2-0 trouncing of the Vietnamese national team, a first time in 20 years, on the way to a semifinals stint in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals’ Cinderella run also made it to Sports Illustrated’s top 10 football stories for 2010.

Besides football, Smart is also into boxing, basketball, taekwondo, tennis, cycling, and running.

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