MANILA, Philippines – The coach of the Philippine Under-14 Girls team that placed second in the recently concluded AFC U-14 Girls Regional Championships is calling for greater development in the grassroots level of the sport.
Coach Let Dimzon steered the U-14 team to a runner-up finish, losing in the final against a powerhouse Thai squad but making history nevertheless as they registered their best finish in the competition.
"This year, sa lahat ng competitions natin, sa U-14 boys and U-14 girls, it means na nag-grow na ang football," said Dimzon. "'Yung record na ginawa ng Azkals, nag-second sila (in the AFC Challenge Cup). Kami at ang U-14 boys maganda rin ang performance."
"Siguro ito na 'yung hindi na tayo naiiwanan," she added. "Umaakyat na tayo ng level."
But Dimzon said Philippine football must not stop here.
"Dapat at a young age, 'yung grassroots level pa lang, dapat doon na nagfo-focus," she said. "Kasi kapag na-develop mo 'yan, dire-diretso pataas 'yan."
Dimzon may wind up coaching the country's under-16 girls team, which will likely be composed of alumna from the U-14 team.
The U-14 team made it to the finals after topping their group, then coming from behind to beat a tough Myanmar team in the semi-finals.
Dimzon said one of the key factors in their title game against Thailand was providing the girls with the right motivation.
"Na-set namin sa kanila na, natalo natin 'yung Vietnam (in the group round), so kung 'yun 'yung history na nagawa natin, na tinalo natin 'yung Vietnam, bakit hindi natin kayang gawin against Thailand?" she said.
"'Yun ang binigay namin sa kanila na motivation, at nag-work naman sa kanila. Sa mga bata kasi, sa ganitong games, the more mo sila sinasabihan, the more mo sila binibigyan ng inspiration, the more na nagagawa nila," she added.
"Sinasabi namin sa kanila, kayo lang ang unang gumawa nito."
The young Filipinas ended up losing to Thailand, 1-2, in a fast-paced and physical encounter, but they were still hailed by the Philippine Football Federation for their historic achievement.
"They made a fantastic run in the tournament, we are proud of them, and they are our champions," PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes said.