With less than a hundred days left before the first match day of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on April 6, Project Jordan has entered the next phase in preparations.
The Philippine women’s national football team is in the middle of a three-month long training camp in Corona, California that began shortly after Christmas under the guidance of new appointee Richard Boon assisted by Clint McDaniel. Around 40 players are expected to participate including overseas-based players selected from the identification camp held last November.
Included in the camp are long-time national team mainstays Inna Palacios, Patrice Impelido, Sara Castañeda as well as Camille Rodriguez who have signed up for the long-haul after being called up by the Philippine Football Federation. They left for camp immediately after Christmas Day.
Recent UAAP graduates Palacios and Rodriguez have shared that they don’t mind being away from home for a long while if national team duty calls for it.
“It’s weird being away from home and not having the vibe of the Philippines, but this is the sacrifice asked of us to represent the flag. It’s important to push through adversity,” Palacios said.
The former De La Salle University goalkeeper agrees it is a necessary step for the team to bond and gel especially with many new recruits.
“We all come from different places and having us all together for this camp helps us get some team chemistry which will hopefully show on the field,” she furthered.
“We want to give our best efforts when we get to Jordan. Having this camp will provide the training and recovery we will need up until April.”
Former Ateneo Lady Eagle and current Hiraya FC stalwart Camille Rodriguez echoes her former rival’s sentiments while pointing out technology will help ease the homesickness.
“It’s easy knowing that they’re only one message away.
“Besides, I have pieces of home with me — my teammates. While this will be the longest time away from home yet, commitments really call for sacrifices, and this sacrifice is one I’m more than willing to make,” Rodriguez said.
With the tournament also acting as FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers where the top five teams get tickets to France 2019, the urgency to prepare well is so high that La Salle taliswoman Sara Castañeda is willing to balance priorities between the national team and the UAAP.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and something to be really excited about,” said the midfielder who scored arguably the most important goal in Philippine women’s football history which clinched the team’s Women’s Asian Cup qualification.
At any rate Castañeda still has her Lady Archer teammates in mind as they aim to defend La Salle’s collegiate title.
“Hopefully they will allow me to go back and forth during our breaks so I can still play games,” she added.
Her younger sister Anicka, an incoming freshman at La Salle, also recently joined the team in training. Alesa Dai Dolino and Mea Bernal, both former players of Far Eastern University and currently tied to OutKast FC, are expected to round up the small group of locally-based players called up by the PFF. Season 79 MVP Kyla Inquig of La Salle was originally a call-up but had to beg off due to academics.
Unlike last year where training started literally only a month before the AFC qualifiers, preparations this time around have started at least four months earlier, something national team captain Patrice Impelido is very appreciative of.
“It’s great that we’re able to start preparations early. It’s very crucial because there’s only three months left. Team chemistry will be very important,” remarked Impelido, the longest serving member on the team who maintains she is ready to use her experience to lead when needed.
The intensive training camp is only part of the preparations arranged by the PFF task force Project Jordan led by PFF president Mariano V. Araneta with corporate backing from PLDT, the MVP Sports Foundation, Giligan’s, Winner Circle Athletics and Pythos Technology Philippines Inc.
The group is also finalizing plans for international friendlies before the team heads to Jordan.
The Philippines (currently ranked at no. 69 worldwide) will open the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Amman, Jordan (50) on April 6 against the hosts at the Amman International Stadium. The next matches will be against the highest ranked team of their group China (16) on April 9 and finally the Southeast Asian giants Thailand (30) on April 12 with both games to be held at the King Abdullah II Stadium. In the other group are Australia (4), Japan (9), Korea Republic (14) and Vietnam (32).