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Filipinas return to international football stage in AFF Women’s Championship

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The Philippines Women’s Football Team is prepared to compete in the upcoming AFF Women’s Championship 2015 to be staged in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from May 1 to May 10. Under the tutelage of Coach Letecia “Buda” Bautista, who earned the distinction of being the first female coach of the national women’s football team, the team will engage in international football action after a futile 2014 that had no competitions in store for them.

In a press conference held at the PFF House of Football in Pasig City, PFF Attorney General Ed Gastañes presented the team with pride. He described the team as potent and dangerous and expressed delight regarding this recent development in Philippine women’s football. On her part, Bautista is pleased to mentor such a talented squad whose members are mainly based in the country. “What we really wanted is to have more local players but we still need right now the overseas players to get our objective,” she said whilst noting that foreign-based Filipinas are exposed to more competition than the ladies residing in the Philippines

The Philippines is in Group B with Malaysia, Myanmar, and hosts Vietnam. The team will start the tournament against Malaysia on May 2 before tangling with Myanmar two days later. Vietnam will be their last group stage foes on May 6. The top two of each groups will enter the semifinals, similar to the format in place at the AFF Suzuki Cup. Should the Philippines make it to the semis, they will face a team in Group A depending on where they finish in the group. Teams in Group A are Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, and the Australia U-20 women’s team. The Philippines nearly made it to the semifinals of the same tournament almost two and a half years ago in Myanmar. Grouped with guest country Japan, host country Myanmar and neighbours Indonesia and Laos, they recorded a 2-0-2 win-draw-loss slate for a third place finish in a group where only the top two teams will advance to the semis.

Among the 29 ladies in the talent pool are Nicole Adlawan, Pearl Aguilar, Natasha Alquiros, Analou Amita, Nona Amoncio, Mea Bernal, Jennizel Cabalan, Sara Castañeda, Alesa Dolino, Joana Houplin, Haya Ibarra, Kyla Inquig, Jean Kadil, Rachelle Labajo, Raylene Larot, Marice Magdolot, Monica Manalansan, Regine Metillo, Aisa Mondero, Marianne Narciso, Irish Navaja, Kali Navea-Huff, Marie Navea-Huff, Mary Rose Obra, Inna Palacios, Hanna Parado, Maria Plaza, Jesse Shugg, Sharmine Siaotong. More than half of the roster saw action in the latest season of UAAP women’s football while a noteworthy few also played for the universities in the said league—a move seen to highlight the importance of cultivating homegrown talent.

A seasoned national team player at only 24 years old, Alquiros hopes that this team will be here to stay in the long term. “It’s difficult if there’s no continuity. This time around, they’re incorporating a lot of local players, which for me is really how it’s supposed to be. What I would really hope for is that they continue to keep this team,” she stated. According to her, the current group has been familiar with themselves having been playing with and against each other in the collegiate league—a huge factor in improving team chemistry on and off the field.

Palacios, who was named as the skipper of the team during the press conference, was pleasantly surprised with the appointment. “So much responsibility. It’s really the highest that you could get. I’m really honored,” she happily said. The 21-year-old goalkeeper is a regular for DLSU in the UAAP and has also been with the national team for quite some time now. Speaking about the composition of the team, she said that in playing together they have been pushing each other to work better on the field.

In this tournament, we will be able to gauge where we are right now,” Bautista said of her team in the upcoming eight-nation tournament. Looking beyond Vietnam, Bautista is aiming to reach higher goals with the team, such as qualifying for major competitions such as the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In the future. “For the World Cup, we are far behind. Asian Cup: four years from now we can, provided we have continuity in our program,” she shared. Bautista is hopeful that the team will earn at least four points—a win against Malaysia, a draw against Myanmar, and they will be liking their chances of making the most out of their match against the Vietnamese.

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