After securing entry into the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India last month, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team headed by veteran mentor Marlon Maro seeks to make waves in the continent’s biggest competition, which shall also serve as Asia’s qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
The 56-year-old tactician was clear in no uncertain terms how important it is to have the best preparation and lineup against Asia’s giants.
“That’s our wish na magkaroon ng face-to-face (practice sessions) dito sa Pilipinas pero talagang lumalapit ng lumalapit itong virus sa atin, ika nga yung Delta virus,” lamented Maro during Tuesday’s edition of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, San Miguel Corporation, Milo, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, PAGCOR and the Daily Tribune. “Ang plano pa rin ay pupunta talaga ng US kasi sa US bukas na sila.
“Pero pag bumalik sa US, ang patuloy nating ipalanganin or nawa’y ang mga visas ng mga local players and some other coaches ay makukuha na natin. Kase for now, the US visa section sa embassy is closed. They’re open only for those emergency visits in America and I was informed yesterday that sports activities, conferences and others are not part of emergencies.”
With the AFC Women’s Asian Cup set to start in January next year, the long-time De La Salle-College of St. Benilde coach remains hopeful that the United States Soccer Federation can intervene somehow for the PWNFT to be able to train just like they did last August.
Time is of the essence and preparing for the big dance through the use of virtual sessions would not cut it especially considering that, including the Philippines, 11 other countries are fighting to be one of Asia’s five entrants in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“Kailangan by mid-November, naka-travel na sa US for the start of the preparations,” said Maro. “Hopefully, we can have all of the team in California unlike the first part of the campaign in the group qualifying na dalawang sections ang preparation. We cannot do that here because, in the AFC Cup, the best 12 countries in Asia are present there in India.”
Another thing to consider for Maro and his staff is who amongst the players in the current pool will make the final cut for India. With the goal of reaching the World Cup, the country needs to send the best available athletes even if it involves making some very tough decisions.
“Ang measurement niyan yung performance ng team sa Uzbekistan,” said the former Davao Aguilas coach. “May mga certain position ng team na kailangan mong palakasin at yun yung hinahanap namin ngayon. We’re starting it.
“We are calling somebody to know if they can commit sa tournament and maganda naman yung resulta sa pag-contact namin sa kanila, yung mga available players. Bakit natin siya kailangan palakasin?” he continued.
“Kailangan natin makarating sa World Cup. At least for a 100 years or more na founding ng Philippine Football Federation since 1907, hindi pa tayo nakatawin doon sa World Cup. This is our best chance to arrive in that World Cup. Kailangan ito na palalakasin na lang yung team at kaunting adjustments sa plano para makuha natin.”
While the challenges to reach the World Cup may be daunting, Maro is up for it especially since achieving that will become a new cornerstone in not only the local women’s football community but the world of Philippine sports.
“You don’t need to be a champion, you don’t need to win all the matches but to win some matches to be in the top five (or) top four,” said the Dumaguete native. “As a coach, I can say yes if we can have that complete roster. I can say to you yes. I’m basing the performance in Uzbekistan.
“Just give us more time to play and train together and we will come up to those results.”