Page last updated at 04:26 Asia/Manila, Monday, 03 November 2014 PH
In a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw the future of the Philippine National Football League that will hopefully be launched by the Philippine Football Federation with the assistance of FIFA in Switzerland by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. I am referring to the eventual construction of world-class football stadiums in the key cities that will be most qualified to host the games of the national league, such as Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Dumaguete, and others. Although I am an avowed fan of one of the best football clubs in the world, FC Barcelona, I must admit that the model stadium that I suggest to LGUs and private firms who can construct these stadiums is that of the rival club in Barcelona, FC Espanyol. Last October 5, Ramon Soley—a leading member of the Real Club Deportivo Espanyol—invited me to watch a match between Espanyol and Real Sociedad from San Sebastian in the Spanish League. Fortunately for my host, Espanyol won 2 to 0. But what impressed me most was the very modern design of this newly constructed stadium that can be the model of the future stadiums in the Philippines. With a capacity for 40,000, the Estadi Conerlla-El Prat in the suburb of Barcelona is a more realistic example we can follow than such giant stadiums like the Camp Nou of FC Barcelona or Bernabeu of Real Madrid which are too mammoth and advanced for the state of football in the Philippines.
In a book entitled UEFA Guide to Quality Stadiums, the UEFA Secretary General, Gianni Infantino, emphasized that “Stadiums are at the heart of the professional game: they are where the action is played out, where the highs and lows are experienced, where history is made. Top quality stadiums are vital to the comfort, safety and security of the spectators, players, officials, media and staff.” As the Philippines takes the first step in a long journey of developing football as a major national sport, it would be wise for the stakeholders to aim high in constructing world-class stadiums from the very beginning, even if we have to temporarily use other venues that are multi-purpose and are not specifically designed for the beautiful game.
We should be thankful to UEFA for setting the world class standards for the modern football stadium for the twenty first century. In brief, we should consider the following criteria:
--Stadium design should focus on the need to create people-friendly structures which provide maximum levels of comfort and safety.
--Increasingly, football stadiums are regarded as architectural icons within the urban landscape that have a massive impact on the surrounding communities and infrastructures.
--Impressive venues can be built on relatively limited budgets, meaning that even smaller clubs are able to make a bold design statement.
--Stadiums should aim to serve the community at large, and should be designed as family-friendly destinations, both for football matches and other events.
--Stadiums should be developed to maximize their commercial potential, by incorporating a broad range of facilities and usages.
--Stadium-design should incorporate the latest technological advances in order to offer the best possible facilities to a match-going public that expects more and more from the matchday experience.
From what I saw last October 4, the Estadi Cornella-El Prat of FC Club Espanyol fulfils the above criteria. Designed by RFA Fernwick Iribarren Architects and Gasulla Arquitectura i Gestio, the four-year-old stadium can sit 40,000 and includes not only new headquarters for the Club but also a hotel, museum, shop and other commercial facilities. The total cost of the stadium was 62 million euros and has a total area of 70,000 square meters. I would recommend to LGU heads as well as business people who would like to cooperate in the construction of football stadiums (such as Megaworld and other leading real estate companies) that they travel to Barcelona and visit the stadium of FC Club Espanyol to have an idea of one of the most modern football stadiums in the world. Just to be very specific, I would like to see Mayor Jed Mabilog of Iloilo, accompanied by some members of the Iloilo Business Club, travel to Barcelona to be given a tour of the stadium described above by my friend Ramon Soley, who can also introduce them to the Architects and construction companies who one day can build a modern stadium in Iloilo, the Football Capital of the Philippines. In fact, FC Espanyol has identified Iloilo as the City in which they would like to conduct football clinics for boys ages 6 to 14 in the very near future. Other LGU heads and business executives who want more information about the model stadium described here may get in touch with Ramon Soley at email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.