FIFA president Gianni Infantino sees 'bright' future for Philippine football

FIFA President Gianni Infantino receives a pennant from PFF President Mariano "Nonong" Araneta during his first official visit to the Philippines on October 21, 2019 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. PFF

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino, one of the most powerful figures in football, visited the Philippines to boost the development of the world's most popular sport.

Infantino concluded a week-long tour of Asian countries with a trip to Manila, where he sat down with the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Executive Board to discuss plans on growing the sport in the country on Monday morning.

The FIFA president emphasized the importance of paying attention to countries still developing in terms of football, such as the Philippines, in other to aid in the growth of the game.

"I've never been to the Philippines. It's important that the FIFA President goes to the Philippines, that FIFA comes here," Infantino said. "(It) shows that we are present, that we can work together, that we can learn from each other, then we can make sure that football in this country grows as it is growing all over the world, and maybe a little bit more."

The head football official even said the Philippines has the potential to make a splash on the world stage.

"I am sure as we move along as we continue to develop the game in a big country like the Philippines, with the talent you have here, that you will become one of the most important powerhouses of football," Infantino said. "Certainly in the region, why not in Asia and in the world?"

Infantino highlighted the efforts the local federation, led by PFF President Mariano "Nonong" Araneta, to promote football in the country. In particular, the FIFA President pointed out their partnership with the PFF in terms of improving infrastructure and competitions in the Philippines.

In line with this, the PFF reported on projects funded by the FIFA Forward Program, which includes the construction and development of the National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite, the Women's League, and the Under-15 Boys National Championship.

"We need to develop more infrastructure, we are working on a project in Carmona, the headquarters of the federation, on pitches and so on," Infantino said. "On competitions, we have been able to fund in the last couple of years, and we will do that also in the future, competitions for boys and for girls."

In addition to meeting with stakeholders from the local federation, Infantino also sat down with Sen. Pia Cayetano and Sen. Manny Pacquiao. According to a FIFA statement, the conversations with the Philippine legislators highlighted the potential role of the sport in terms of social development in the country.

While football is not yet the audience drawing spectacle in the Philippines as it is in other nations, Infantino is bullish on the growth of the sport in the country. The FIFA President also hopes the development of football in the country will positively effect the state of the game on an international level.

"I think the future of football in the country is bright," Infantino said. "If this country does perform well in football, then the whole ASEAN region, the whole of Asia, and the whole world will benefit."