MANILA Finally convinved that the removal and replacement of Jose Mari Martinez was above board, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) has formally declared former national player Mariano “Nonong” Araneta as the new president of the Philippine Football Federation.
The recognition of Araneta, the skipper of the national team from 1981 to 1984, by the sport’s governing body came three weeks after 26 local football association presidents removed Martinez during a PFF Congress over allegations of illegal disbursements of funds, falsification of public documents and failure to return of funds.
The 56-year-old Araneta, who led an inquiry into Martinez’s fund misuse, was unanimously voted by the assembly to take the reins until the next PFF elections in November 2011.
“Now, we can move forward,” an elated Araneta, who is president of the Iloilo Football Association, said yesterday during the weekly PSA Forum at Shakey’s UN Avenue in Manila.
Araneta vowed transparency in running the affairs of the association, which receives an annual aid of $250,000 (about P11.75 million) from the Fifa.
He also pledged that the funds allocated for PFF projects, particularly the Asian Football Confederation’s AID 27 program for coaches, will be released accordingly. Funds for the program was allegedly diverted for other expenses during Martinez’s term.
Araneta, the Philippine Sportswriters Association awardee for football in 1984, promised to revive national age-group competitions and the National Open, which was shelved in 2007 in favor of the Filipino Premiere League, which lasted only one season.
He also plans to partner with the Department of Education in establishing a school-based grassroots program.
“We’re hoping that kids get to play football in school under their physical education subject for an hour everyday,” said Araneta.
Ismael Batiles of the Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental Football Association also received Fifa’s affirmation as PFF vice president.
The Fifa actually said it still recognized Martinez as president in a Dec. 3 letter to the PFF, but the international federation changed its stand when PFF general secretary Ramon Manuel sent supporting documents, videotapes and the minutes of the Nov. 27 congress.
“These bring a new light to the congress and its results,” said Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke in a Dec. 20 letter to Manuel, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
Fifa vice president Geoff Thompson, chair of the Association Committee, whose opinion was sought in deciding the case, declared the results of the congress valid because the vote to remove Martinez exceeded two thirds of the member-associations.
“The decision of the PFF Congress to remove and replace Jose Mari Martinez was taken according to the PFF statutes,” Thompson said.