Malditas out to prove worth as SEA Games women's football kicks off
WITHOUT the Azkals in the delegation, focus will be on the Malditas who will be out to prove their worth as they begin their campaign in the Southeast Asian Games on Tuesday in Mandalay, Myanmar.
The Philippine women’s football squad made the cut, while the Under-23 Azkals were scratched due to the stringent selection process of the joint Philippine Olympic Committee-Philippine Sports Commission Task Force, with only gold potentials being included by the Task Force during the selection of athletes.
Now the Malditas hope to show they deserve the spot in the Myanmar.
“We have to repay the trust na binigay sa atin ng PSC and POC,” said Malditas head coach Ernie Nierras before leaving for Myanmar for the SEA Games. “Isang medalya lang naman ang hinihingi sa amin at isang kulay. Hopefully, in doing so, we will be able to bridge the gap ’yung expectations between the PSC and the POC.”
Nierras also sees the inclusion of the women’s team as proof of the growth of football in the country after the Azkals put the sport into the Filipinos’ consciousness three years ago with their strong showing in the Asean Football Championship.
“It’s more symbolic than just a medal. It’s actually bridging and expansion of growth of football with the women’s team as the only contingent,” Nierras said.
“Hopefully, in doing good, the PSC and the POC will feel that it is a start, football being included all the time (in the SEA Games),” said Nierras.
The Malditas open their campaign against Myanmar in Group A action at the Mandalay Thiri Stadium, about four hours away from the main hub of Naypyitaw. Indonesia pulled out from the tournament at the last minute.
Nierras is optimistic about the Malditas’ chances against the host, the bronze medalist when women’s football in the SEA Games was last held in 2009.
“I know them by heart,” said Nierras. ”We know these teams. The expectations are the same. We’ll see what happens.”
After Myanmar, the Malditas will take on defending champion Vietnam on Friday. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals.
The Malditas will miss skipper and long-time national team member Marielle Benitez, who suffered an injury during the team's preparation before the SEA Games.