MANILA—The Philippine national women’s football team comes out of a two-year hiatus when it sees action in the Asean Football Championship slated October 16 to 25 in Vientiane, Laos.
Drawing inspiration from the feat of the men’s team which made heads turn with a semifinal finish in the Suzuki Cup last year, the squad, collectively known as the Malditas, is looking to improve after losing all three games in the tournament two years ago.
The Malditas have not played since October14, 2009 when they lost 0-11 to Vietnam in Myanmar. That team also lost to Australia, 0-14, and Myanmar B, 1-5, in the same tournament.
Because they haven’t been playing international matches the past two years, the Malditas have even lost their Fifa ranking. The Malditas were pinned at 128 in November last year, their lowest ranking in history.
But with a stronger squad playing next month in the Laos capital where the men’s team also started its amazing semifinal run in the Suzuki Cup, the Malditas’ status could change soon.
Coach Ernie Nierras is confident that the Malditas can put up a tougher stand this time.
“Now is the time to shine for us,” Nierras told the Inquirer. “Hopefully, this (tournament) will jumpstart women’s football same as what happened with the men’s team.”
Part of Nierras’ optimism stems from the inclusion of several foreign-based players in the squad, including Fil-American Heather Cooke, a former Division 1 player at Loyola Marymount, who traces her roots in Iloilo.
The 22-year-old Cooke, who starred in the reality show “Real World” on MTV in the United States, is expected to shore up the Malditas’ backline.
Nierras said that with the 5-foot-9 Cooke’s presence gives the team “options that they never had before.”
Height, though, isn’t just Cooke’s best asset.
“I’m the kind of player who will give everything for the team for 90 minutes,” Cooke, who played four seasons in the NCAA, told the Inquirer in an interview shortly after arriving Tuesday night.
And with a team whose average is 20, Cooke’s experience will come in handy as the Malditas gear up for the tough grind in Laos.
In preparation for the tournament, the Malditas have also played matches against men’s teams in the “Ang Liga.”
Marielle Benitez will still skipper the squad which also boasts of former UAAP Most Valuable Players Samantha Nierras and Stephanie Peasant, US-based Patrice Impelido, Fil-Canadian Mallory Dayot, Germany-based Cristina Keuter and Lorrene Bayani and Nenita Burgess from Australia.
Also part of the team are Inna Palacios, Maan Del Carmen, Louella Amamio, Isabella Fernando,Jowee Barruga, Marice Magdolot, Natasha Alquiros, Nikki Regalado, Joma Clemente, Bettina Yang, Jane Pacana, Camille Rodriguez, Aiza Mondero, Zipporah Luna, Marie Magdolot, Pricilla Rubio, Kyra Tagbo and Angel Metillo.