Banking on the Malditas’ success

The success of the Malditas in the AFC Asian Women’s Cup has put the spotlight on women’s football in the country, leading some to dream of having a women’s league of their own.

You really can’t blame them, it’s a lofty goal. But for me, I’d settle on having more girls take up the sport. You see, while every regional FA has a women’s committee and have their own grassroots program for girls, it’s still very difficult for any girl whose interest for football may have been piqued by the Malditas’ success to take up the sport.

The reason is very basic, lack of access to a football and a venue.

ONLY ROSE IN THE FIELD. A young girl from Giuseppe FC (center) takes on the boys in the Players 7 division of the SunStar Cup 2018 edition. Girls normally compete in mixed divisions as they start before playing in an all-girl division starting in the 14-Under age group. However, the lack of girl players has led to some divisions being scrapped in tournaments or 12 or 14-year-old girls competing in 18-Under divisions.

Let’s take the case of girls in Cebu City for example. If you don’t know anyone who is into football, you simply don’t know where you’d start if you want to play football, that’s why almost all the girls who join the football programs—whether the grassroots-based of the local FA or the private ones of the private clubs—are the daughters or sisters of footballers. There are a lucky few, encouraged by coaches who scour the various communities for talents.

This lack of access was highlighted when the Azkals got football in the mainstream back in 2010 and one of the popular suggestions was to utilize the various basketball courts as futsal venues. That didn’t push through for the simple reason that the guys who control the basketball courts—the barangay officials—didn’t and still do not give a hoot about football.

Unless something is done to change the football landscape, I’m afraid the same will hold true despite the Malditas’ success.

What can possibly be done to change that?

It’s 18 months before the Fifa Women’s World Cup, what can the Philippine Football Federation do to get more girls to play the game and increase our pool of players for the national youth teams?

The PFF can’t possibly put up venues all over the country in such a short time but it can encourage the Department of Education to include girls football in its trademark step-ladder competition. Yeah, I know, it’s not ideal but at least it’s something doable.

How does that address the lack of venue? Most towns outside of the city have a plaza, for old Spanish-era towns, it’s usually between municipal hall and the church. It may not be ideal, but for the purpose of getting more girls to play the game, it will do. Besides, to encourage girls to play, you have to let them see other girls play.

And this is where the regional-structure of the PFF has the advantage. Each regional FA has a women’s committee and a coaching program, the goal for next 18 months, and this can be helped by a linkage with DepEd, is to get more female teachers from public schools certified as coaches. The DepEd hierarchy can easily encourage that if it includes girls football in the Palarong Pambansa and require the coaches to be licensed.

Why focus on public schools? Well, in the present setup, most of the youth players in girls football are from the private schools, tapping the public schools will exponentially increase the player base.

I think doing that would be a more worthwhile target than aiming for a women’s league.

Mike T. Limpag
Mike T. Limpag

Mike T. Limpag has covered the Cebu sports scene for over 20 years, starting as an 18-year-old cub reporter for the Freeman in 1997 before moving to SunStar Cebu in 2001.

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