Women's football: It's all coming together for the Philippines
Philippines vs Bahrain
AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifier
10:00 pm Philippine time
Monday, April 10
Watch LIVE on http://mycujoo.tv/ch/273?id=4549
On Friday the Philippine Women's National team demolished Tajikistan 8-0 in AFC Asian Cup qualifying. It was the third straight blowout win after 4-0 triumphs against the UAE on Monday and Iraq on Wednesday.
The Philippines are in a 6-team qualifying group for the final stage of the AFC Asian Cup in Jordan next year. The Jordanian women are in Group A with the Pinays despite the fact that they have qualified as hosts. Only the top team is supposed to make it out of this pool, and if Jordan finishes on top, the second-place team progresses.
A draw or a victory against Bahrain on Monday and the Philippines will likely ice that second spot no matter what happens in Wednesday's final match against Jordan, unless the Jordanians slip up against Tajikistan on Monday, a long shot. Bahrain are third in the table with 4 points, Jordan walloped them 6-0 and they drew against UAE 1-1.
This plucky bunch of Filipinas has overcome plenty of adversity to get to one win away from qualifying for the Asian Cup for the since time since 2003, after which a qualification round was instated. Attendance in training was spotty because of school and UAAP games. Securing a training ground was not always easy. Preparation time was, as usual, in short supply. But the stars have also aligned for Buda Bautista's side. Here are the factors that have led them here.
Title IX. Yes, the seeds of this amazing week in Philippine women's football were sown on June 23, 1972, when, with a stroke of President Richard Nixon's pen, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law in the United States. Co-authored and introduced by Senator Birch Bayh, (D-Indiana), the portion of the act states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
That included sports in public schools and colleges that received federal funding. In effect, whatever money spent on boy's sports in this school had to be equal to what was given to women. Since public educational institutions in the states spend a great deal of money on sports like basketball and American football, a similar amount of cash got poured into girl's and women's sports. And one of the most popular women's sports in the states is Soccer.
This is one of the reasons why the USA is a serial world champion in soccer. They won the World Cup in 2015 for a record third time. The American women perform much better than other traditional football powerhouses like Italy and Spain. In the states there is so much public sector support for the game in all levels from grade school to college. Hence generation upon generation of quality female women players, thousands upon thousands of them, are being churned out. And some of these girls just so happen to have Filipino heritage.
On Friday 6 Filipina-Americans took to the field against Tajikistan. Hali Long nodded in a hat trick of headers. Claire Lim served up quality set pieces and so much more. Patrice Impelido, the unretired captain, secured the center of the park. Patricia Tomanon displayed blazing speed on the flanks, even deep into second-half stoppage time. Hanna Parado pulled the strings in midfield. And Eva Madarang once again struck. She is lethal with either foot and apparently with her head too.
The big question for me is this: should the Philippines have its own Title IX? I hope our legislators are taking note.
A Golden Generation of homegrown girls. While the overseas-born Pinays have been stellar, it is apparent that the homegrowns in the lineup are playing near or at the level of the Filipina-Americans.
Irish Navaja's lobbed goal from an acute angle is no fluke. Her coach in DLSU, Hans Smit, says the Bacolodnon does it all the time. Navaja also crossed to Sara Castañeda, who controlled deftly and finished for 4-0. Castañeda is also a DLSU player, a product of De La Salle Zobel.
In the second game Sara scored again, and centerback Dai Dai Dolino from San Carlos City got on the scoresheet as well with a perfect header.
In the 8-0 beatdown versus Tajikistan, Sara's younger sister Anicka got in on the action with a pair of goals, one a rocket from distance that the Tajik keeper could not prevent from going in. Late sub Mary Christine Duran also nodded home for a goal. Duran is from Talisay, just outside of Bacolod.
These are amazing players but in reality only the tip of the iceberg. Because of school commitments and other reasons, a bunch of very experienced quality players were unable to make the team. Absent from the roster were the likes of Molly Manalansan, Kyra Dimaandal, Cristina De Los Reyes, and Natasha Alquiros. Etang Ladero of FEU and now Air Force is another amazing player who wasn't in the team. Ditto for Charissa Lemoran, a prolific scorer for UST.
Two high schoolers from the U16 girls national team, the incredibly gifted scorer Lindsay Whaley and goalie Yasmin Elauria both made the squad but were so young the DSWD would not let them travel without their parents. Joyce Semacio, the U14 Asean MVP 3 years ago, is not in this team but one thinks she will get a full senior cap sooner than later.
Another two players, UP's Mary Rose Obra and Shannon Arthur, both solid UAAP veterans, are recovering from injury. Both might have made the roster.
Alisha Del Campo, still studying in DLSZ, got a start the other day. Pinay women's football is deep, and it's young, and it's getting more experience than ever because...
The PFF Women's League was a huge help. The UAAP used to be the top tier of 11-a-side women's football in the country. Once you were done in UAAP, that was it. But late last year the PFF began the PFF Women's League. It is now in hiatus during the UAAP season but it will continue in May. Read more about it here.
Outkast FC is one of the teams in that league. Mostly composed of FEU alumni, it's where Dai Dai Dolino plays. Surely her matches in the league helped keep her fit leading up this campaign. Whaley and Elauria also play for that club. Del Campo suited up for the Green Archers United ladies team.
Good decision making is born from experience. This league came at the right time for these players. Let's hope the league becomes a yearly thing.
Culture. Last week I met a Spanish priest working in a school for indigents in Bicutan called Mano Amiga. The priest, like all Spaniards, played football growing up. He was surprised to learn that boys and girls play football against each other here. He said that when he was a boy, girls just didn't play football in Spain.
Of course that's not the case anymore, but perhaps countries like the UAE, Iraq and Tajikistan are in a similar situation. Men's football is huge in these nations, but women's football, due to societal norms, economics, or religious mores, might be neglected. For all we know our girls and women's football infrastructure, as underdeveloped as it may be, could be light years ahead of Tajikistan, Bahrain and UAE.
The Philippines does not face these restraints. We are one of the most gender-equal countries in Asia, if not the world. We generally let our girls play sports. That's one reason why this team can compete so well against more mature footballing countries.
Another note on gender equality: coach Buda Bautista is the only female head coach in Group A.
Luck. The men's senior team got a pretty tough draw in their AFC Asian Cup qualifying, but the women have surely been drawn in the “Group of Hope.” After winning the first three games by a combined score of 16-0, that is a pretty fair conclusion.
Meanwhile Group B is a shark tank. DPR Korea, South Korea, and Uzbekistan are there and only one punches a ticket to Jordan. It's a similar story in Group D, where ASEAN powerhouses Vietnam and Myanmar are battling it out with Iran for one slot.
Yes the Philippines did get a slice of good fortune, but we have taken it and ran with it.
Luck alone will not catapult us to Jordan. The girls must keep their composure and continue playing the ball-possession brand of attacking football that has gotten them this far. Come Monday we will know if they are truly destined for glory. – Rappler.com
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.
Editor's note: A previous version of the story said the Philippine women would be playing in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time. It's been updated to say that it's the first time the Philippine team has qualified for the AFC Asian Cup. Prior to 2003 there was no qualification round to enter the tournament.