The PFF Women’s League made its return this year after the pandemic paused competitive activities for more than two years. A relaunch of the PFF Women’s Cup with a shortened schedule tested the waters of post-pandemic conditions last year, and its success led to the continuation of the league.
For this year’s edition, ten teams are competing, including four UAAP teams: defending 2019 league champions De La Salle University, defending 2022 cup champions Far Eastern University, University of the Philippines, and University of Santo Tomas. Additionally, six club teams are participating: Azzurri, Kaya, Nomads, Stallion Laguna, Tuloy, along with new club Manila Digger.
The competition is set to run alongside the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, where the Philippine Football Federation aims to promote the historic participation of the Filipinas through the league. PFFWL 2023 will follow a cup tournament format with knockout matches after a single round of elimination.
Saturday marked the opening of the league with Tuloy and Manila Digger both getting maximum points, with Tuloy slightly ahead on a plus-7 goal difference.
Isabella Bandoja was notably absent from Tuloy’s roster last year in the PFF Women’s Cup, and the two-time Golden Boot awardee celebrated a triumphant return by scoring three goals past University of the Philippines for a 7-0 win.
“I’m so grateful since antagal ko rin nawala, pero they welcomed me back with their full hearts. Dahil sa teammates at coaches ko, pinush nila na umi-score nang umi-score,” revealed the 21-year-old striker, whose absence mattered little with a seamless reintegration back into Tuloy’s system.
Meanwhile, a hapless Maroon squad appeared to have not checked in mentally yet after a very short break from the UAAP games, which only ended last May. Their disjointed midfield became prone to errors, and loose defending led to conceding four goals in the first half, including Jade Jalique’s effort in the 28th minute, Bandoja’s 38th-minute strike, Lanie Ortillo’s 40th-minute breakaway goal, and Louraine Evangelista’s cheeky 41st-minute shot.
The issues of the collegiate squad persisted in the closing half, with Bandoja completing her hat-trick in the 75th and 90th minutes, while Demely Rollon added a goal of her own in the 63rd minute.
Diggers stun UST 1-0 with Lecera’s header
University of Santo Tomas looked like they were settling for a draw in their opening match only to be shocked near the end by Manila Digger for a 0-1 loss.
The battle for control of the midfield was palpable as the veteran players of the Diggers went toe-to-toe with the younger and fitter players of UST. Both teams had chances to score but keepers Kyla Regalado and Lizlie Garcia guarded their posts valiantly.
It took a setpiece in the 74th minute to undo UST’s defensive efforts thus far after a corner by Karen Alora found Roselle Lecera for a header goal. Lecera along with her teammates were ecstatic and celebrated in complete astonishment including Mea Bernal.
“Ang mindset lang talaga namin is to give UST a good fight. Gusto naming manalo pero alam namin mahihirapan kami because yung kundisyon ng katawan namin is iba talaga sa mga bata,” she said.
The 33-year-old captain also admitted how the win meant a lot for the new league entrant, a team that had only been playing 7-a-side tournaments until then.
“Yung puso ng mga tita, ng mga lola, andun eh. So dinaan nalang namin siya sa experience kasi di namin kayang tumagal ng takbuhan. Totally surprised yes, nung first half, okay good game lang muna. Pero pagka second half, adjust si Coach Timo [Orcullo], sabi na niya–mananalo tayo.”
Tuloy – 3 pts (+7 GD)
Manila Digger – 3 pts (+1 GD)
UST – 0 pt (-1 GD)
UP – 0 pt (-7 GD)
Azzurri – 0 pt
DLSU – 0 pt
FEU – 0 pt
Kaya – 0 pt
Nomads – 0 pt
Stallion Laguna – 0 pt
The PFF Women’s League continues next weekend at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona with De La Salle University taking on Azzurri on Saturday, July 1 at 4:00 P.M. while Stallion Laguna FC meet Tuloy FC later at 6:30 P.M.
On Sunday, July 2, it will be Kaya facing Nomads at 4:00 P.M. before Manila Digger going against University of the Philippines at 6:30 P.M.
The games will be broadcast live on the Facebook page of the PFF Women’s League.