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GAU Women triumph a manifestation of commitment to women’s football

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Green Archers United (GAU) Women is among the 10 teams slated to compete in the Philippine Football Federation Women’s Cup. The first round of the tournament began last Sunday when they achieved a 1-0 victory over FEU. GAU Women goalkeeper Haya Ibarra kept an impressive clean sheet en route to the win. The result tastes sweet for her and her teammates, but there was something that made it more fulfilling.

“It’s like, we didn’t expect it. We’re in it because we want to still play competitive,” told Ibarra. Like her, most of the GAU players also come from the UAAP Women’s Football Teams and have not been featuring in regular competitive football since they graduated from college. Thus, the tournament offers them a new stage to perform at, and one which pits them with fresh talent.

One of the finest university teams in the country is FEU. They won three straight titles in UAAP Women’s Football and were the first foes of Ibarra’s team. The experienced women of GAU Women were unfazed, netting a goal within the opening minute of the game. Milka Romero found the back of the net to shock FEU. It proved to be the game’s only goal despite the Lady Tamaraws’ unwavering yet unsuccessful search for an equalizer. It was a nervy 90 minutes of football for the eventual winners, who got more than what they bargained for. “Our goal is actually just to draw. Sabi namin, ‘Guys, champion na ‘yung feeling kapag maka-draw lang tayo.’ Pero, it turned out even better and I’m happy my teammates were able to hold,” the custodian shared.

On the way to victory, Ibarra displayed command and skill to fend off attacks reminiscent of her college days. It appears that she kept on playing football routinely even if it was not the case for her. “I haven’t had an official match for a year and a half. It was frustrating to know also that I was rusty,” Ibarra said in reference to the time before she joined the national team not long ago in Vietnam.

The positives did not end there. Ibarra is happy that her new team is geared towards cultivating the growth of women’s football. Despite the name Green Archers United, players are not limited to the rich pool of former DLSU squad members. For one, goalscorer Romero played for DLSU’s rival school Ateneo in her college days. “We’re open to anyone, as long as there are girls who want to play, girls that are committed,” she disclosed. Back in college, Ibarra described that there were barriers that hindered her from getting to know some players from outside La Salle. She suggests that GAU Women has given her the chance to bond with them on and maybe even off the pitch.

Together, Ibarra and her teammates at GAU Women strive to push their limits by not just proving their talent in the Women’s Cup. The greater goal, perhaps, is breaking into the national team. For Ibarra, the latest team comprised of a very young group of players with her being one of the elder members at just 25 years of age. “We can still compete at this level. It’s never too late. At this age, this should be our peak,” the goalkeeper reckons. A proof of such capacity is the result obtained against a talented FEU team that is one of the hotbeds to Philippine women’s football. Ibarra made it to the national team and is hoping to see her GAU Women teammates follow suit eventually. Now with a platform beyond the university league, Ibarra believes players like her should take advantage by performing well against some of the country’s best teams. “I know there’s a lot of talent, especially, from my batch and higher, there are lot of good girls that still can actually represent the country. It doesn’t have to be the young ones; kaya pa namin,” she concluded. –LGT

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