By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines - After the historic runner-up finish of the Philippine under-14 girls team in the AFC Championship for the Asean region, the challenge for the Philippine Football Federation will be to sustain the momentum in youth development and aspire for something bigger.
“I think the challenge right now is 2016, the time the girls will try to compete in the AFC U-16 championship. If they get in the Top 3 of the AFC competition, they can play in the (next) Fifa world U-17 championship,” said PFF technical director Aris Caslib.
“Hopefully, that will be the motivation for our girls, even for their parents. These are the great ambition and great challenges you have to look for. We’ll be calling for a meeting with the coaching staff soon and probably we can outline a two-year plan for that strategy,” he added.
The U-14 girls made history by reaching the finals of the AFC tourney in Vietnam, spiking their feat with a milestone 1-0 reversal of 2013 champ and host Vietnamese in the group stages. They lost to Thailand, 1-2, in the finals to cop silver and were also handed with the Fair Play award while Davao’s Joyce Semacio took MVP honors.
“They showed character the entire tournament. Once they entered the field, they went all out. And they really showed us a high level of intensity all throughout,” said coach Let Dimzon.
The team’s achievement followed up the Azkals’ second place standing in the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives two weeks ago and a creditable performance by the boys’ U-14 side in another international meet.
“It goes to show that we’re already leveling up and we just need to continue with our grassroots program,” said Dimzon, whose team had 60 percent of its players coming from the provinces.
According to Caslib, the structure for scouting for talents in the regions are already in place, through the PFF’s Festival of Football, and coaches are being provided with “continuous education.”
The idea now, he said, is to make sure mainstays and other candidates for the U-16 will get together whenever possible.
“We can do pocket training camps. For example, if there’s a sem-break, we can gather them; in December, we can gather them again for camps. Then we can organize U-14 competitions. And next year, we can bring them outside for camps, international friendlies, or competitions,” he said.