Friday, September 21, 2012

Fair Play: The Malditas and the women's game


THE Philippine national women's team, also known as the Malditas, closed out their campaign in the AFF Women's Championship with a morale-boosting 7-2 win over Singapore, after losing to Myanmar (3-0) and Vietnam (4-2).

Though the Philippines, ranked 85th in the world and 19th in Asia, finished third for the second straight edition, it was an improvement on its 2011 campaign, when it finished tied with Malaysia with one point but got third on goal difference. In 2009, it was a different story, as the team lost all three games and conceded 30 goals.



Based on records in the AFF's official website, this year was the best finish of the team. Though they also had three points in 2007, with its lone win also against Singapore, the team conceded 20 goals in three matches, while scoring three.  This year, they allowed nine and scored nine.

On the domestic front, things are looking up for the women's game, too, as they now have a local league.

But aside from a league, one thing that could really boost the sport is if the high schools and colleges start offering the sport in their athletic programs.  Right now, it's only the Manila schools that give scholarships to lady footballers.

There are plans to include girls’ football in the Palarong Pambansa and if that pushes through, that’s really going to be a huge boost for the sport.  Girls football these days, are only played in festivals, and if they’re lucky, in events organized by the local FAs.

A few years ago, the University of San Carlos established a first in Cebu by putting up a team and offering partial scholarships to female players.  Sadly, without a tournament to play on, the team was disbanded after a few years, which also marked the time that the women's game here slowed.

Right now, more female players--from the school age to professionals to former players getting back--are playing. Football's growing popularity, has also attracted a lot of new generation players.

And I think the Malditas have given these eight, 10-year-olds a goal.  Just as every boy these days seem to say, “I want to be in the Azkals,” a consistent positive showing by the Malditas in the international scene, may push these new players to dream of joining the team one day.

Right now, the Malditas don’t enjoy the same support as the Azkals, but I think that will change.  Heather Cooke, one of the Filipino-Foreigners in the team, even wrote that their uniform provider backed out at the last minute.

That reminds me the time when the men’s team only had Accel, which provided for all national teams, as its outfitter.  It was also that time when the Philippines ended its string of losses in the international game, made it to the top two of a qualifier for the first time, and started getting respect from its neighbors.

All of that was done under the radar, and only a few fans cared.  And like what Heather and the rest of the Filipino-Foreigners in the Malditas are experiencing, guys like Chad Gould and Chris Greatwich, also had a culture-shock when they first trained with the team.

From 2004 to 2010, players, coaches, managers and PFF presidents came and went, but the team never wavered in its goal, eventually earning that marquee win against Vietnam.

I hope it won’t take them six years, but I believe—call it faith or instinct—that the Malditas will also have their Vietnam moment.  And I hope it happens soon.

NON-UNIFORM UNIFORMS. By the way, the Malditas experience highlight a curious Philippine football fact—our national teams don’t have the same uniform provider.  

I hope someday, we will just have one provider for all national teams so that our uniform will be, sort of, uniform.



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