MANILA, Philippines - With the resurgence of the nation’s football dreams, watchful eyes are on the progress of each program, including the woman’s national team. Even its name has been unable to escape scrutiny but at the moment, Ernie Nierras, head coach women’s team, has more important things to worry about than defending the team’s moniker, the Malditas.
Oct. 16 is the start of the 2011 AFF Women’s Championship to be held in Vientiane, Laos, with the team looking forward to blazing through the rounds up to the very last day — Oct, 25, when the top two countries face each other in the finals.
Nierras believes that Thailand is the favorite to win this year, noting Vietnam and Myanmar are the other teams to beat, as the Azkals’ female counterpart has already defeated the likes of Laos, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia in the past. Whether or not the campaign abroad brings home the trophy, it is apparent that bigger plans are to continue in dedication to the sport of this now football-crazed nation. “The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Women’s Committee, the committee that manages the Malditas, in cooperation with the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC), will allow the women’s national teams the access to the first public football field built on artificial turf,” Nierras announces. “Now we have a field we can consistently train on. Better facilities can only mean better training and better teams.”
Nierras adds that the field, slated to be done by Dec. 15, will be holding competitive tournaments for both men and women, from the younger squads to the seniors. Clinics and football academies will also be arranged once the venue starts its operations. Meanwhile, Nierras shares with us the status of the Malditas coming into the much-anticipated Southeast Asian-wide tournament the squad has ever had to face since its two-year break from representing our flag in the international level.
Coach Nierras believes that Thailand is the favorite to win this year.
YOUNG STAR: How will the Fil-foreign recruits fare in the tournament knowing you’re counting on them to serve as your impact players?
COACH ERNIE NIERRAS: My expectation for the Fil-foreigners (Heather Cooke, Cristina Keuter, Patrice Impelido and Lorrene Bayani) is that they will complement the local players. Patrice is not new to the team. She is one of the senior members. Together with Marielle Benitez, Sam Nierras and Natasha Alquiros, I expect all of them to be the leaders of the team.
We know that when it comes to most sports, women have their work cut out for them in terms of proving themselves. Why do you think the Malditas, just like the rest of our representatives in international sports, deserve the attention and support of our fellow Filipinos?
These girls are the mavericks of women’s sports. They are gutsy enough to be called the Malditas. Now they have to show the Filipino sports fans that being a Maldita is not a bad thing at all. This is something good not only for Philippine sports, but for women’s sports, in general.
You’ve mentioned the important role of some of the universities, colleges and schools to the success of the national squad.
Allow me to thank the coaches for supporting us: Coach Bon Estrabon (University of Santo Tomas), Coach Hans Smit (De la Salle University / De la Salle-Zobel), Coach Bob Manlulo (Miriam College), Coach Angie (Colegio de San Agustin) and Coach Kleng Cacacho (International School Manila). Also, I’d like to thank the University of Makati for allowing us free use of their facilities. The other coaches should be ready to explain themselves, when their schools find out that they have no players (playing as a Maldita). I expect the training pool of the Malditas to grow after this (AFF) tournament.
What’s in store for the Malditas as we bid the team good luck in Laos?
We need to acknowledge the support of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). The PFF president (Mariano Araneta Jr.) supports women’s football 100 percent. We have coaching courses and seminars, specific to helping coaches of women’s teams. We have refereeing courses for female referees. We will also be working on our grassroots program. The future looks really bright for women’s football in the Philippines.