For roughly two years due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maye Mendano did not play a competitive game of football prior to the past two weeks.
After being gone from the sport for so long, Mendano found herself selected by coach Marlon Maro to represent the Philippines in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers in Uzbekistan.
“I’m really happy nung nalaman ko na part ako ulit ng team. It feels surreal,” said the third-year De La Salle University student-athlete, who made sure to bring with her learnings from the people she learns from on a daily basis.
“Composure sa laro and always na all out ang ibigay sa game kahit na maliit ang playing time. And, always ko na-remember mga sinasabi sakin ng coaches ko na play the way you play.”
With the coronavirus still to be properly contained in the country, getting things done remotely in a virtual setting has been one of the main means to stop the transmission of the virus.
Keeping in shape and learning tactics by looking at a screen is something Mendano, who last played for the country in the 2019 AFF Women’s Championship, never envisioned she would have to do.
“Kahit walang UAAP may (online) training pa rin kami sa DLSU and meron din mga strength training (na galing) sa school. And we trained din sa national team na online and may mga extra program na intended for us din,” explained the 21-year-old.
Despite not playing in the Philippines’ first game against Nepal, coach Marlon Maro inserted her in the starting lineup playing in an unfamiliar defensive role when the team took on Hong Kong to seal qualification for the Asian Cup.
Amidst the daunting situation, Mendano stayed calm even if it served as a sign that she has come a long way from her humble beginnings in Tondo.
“Si Coach Maro always niya ko sinasabihan na kaya ko, wag matakot and stay focus sa new position na binigay niya sakin, and nag-stick lang ako sa plan niya. Like every training, they always guide me dahil bago ako sa position,” said the UAAP Women’s Football gold medalist.
“Wala sa isip or di dumaan sa isip ko na pagdating ng panahon ay makakalaro ako with the National Team. All I know is to play lang and to have friends. And it feels surreal talaga and masaya.”
Mendano’s inclusion versus Hong Kong was a masterstroke from Maro’s end considering that she was able to provide an assist for teammate Tahnai Annis to break the deadlock in the first half, which in the grander scheme of things is one of the key moments in her short career so far alongside being a goalscorer in the UAAP Season 81 finals.
“And again for the third time, it feels surreal,” she said. “After I made that pass, I didn’t know how to react. Pagka- received ko ng bola, all I needed to do that time was to go closer to the goal and pass sa kabilang side and yon nung na-feel ko na i-pass ang bola eh.
“That’s the time na napasa ko and yun naka-assist ako.”
For now, though, Mendano and her teammates are on break feeling relief and happiness that they were able to get the job done. However, they know that there is still a bigger goal to achieve and their minds are already working to fulfill that.
“I know it is not just me but the whole team. We want to qualify for the World Cup!”