In what may be his biggest assignment yet in a long and distinguished coaching career, Marlon Maro has accepted the challenge of calling the shots of the national women’s football squad, hoping to steer the Malditas back to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup hosted by India in January 2022.
The Philippine Football Federation tweeted Maro’s appointment Saturday with a link on its website, which was also reported by the ASEAN Football Federation website.
“Who are we to refuse this assignment given to us by the PFF? Hopefully we live up to the federation’s trust. This is a great honor,” said Maro, 55, who will be back at the helm of the PH women’s side he handled from 2001 to 2007.
In his last national women’s team outing, he steered the Pinay booters to one win and one draw in the group stage of the 2007 Southeast Asian Games women’s football tournament in Nakhon Ratchashima, Thailand.
Maro, who also handles the College of Saint Benilde program in the NCAA and an AFC-accredited coaching instructor, has an AFC pro license that is a prerequisite for handling a national side.
“We have been trying to woo Marlon back to coach our national team for some time. We in the PFF believe in giving opportunities to our local coaches in handling a big task such as the AFC Women’s Asian Cup,” said PFF general secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes.
“He (Maro) commands the respect of both players and other coaches alike so we believe he is very capable in handling our national women’s team. He is eminently qualified and our team is in good hands,” added Gastanes of the mentor who is also a longtime member of the PFF’s technical department.
Gastanes noted that the expanded AFC Women’s Asian Cup will be the continent’s pre-qualifying tournament to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with six slots at stake in the event that will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in early 2023.
“You must remember that the Philippines finished sixth overall in the last AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Amman, Jordan in 2018. Now we have a better chance of making it to the Women’s World Cup,” Gastanes said.
Maro will try to surpass the performance of the national squad handled by French coach Rabah Benlarbi, who piloted the Malditas to a record of a one win and two losses in Group A of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 3 years ago that also included China, Thailand and host Jordan.
The Filipina footballers nipped the Jordanians 2-1 but fell to the Thais and Chinese by scores of 3-1 and 3-0, respectively, in the competition.
Benefitting from the luck of the draw, the Nationals have found themselves in Group F of the Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers in the company of Hong Kong and host Nepal, two teams that are ranked lower than them in the FIFA women’s world ratings.
The Malditas are currently ranked No. 68 in the world ratings and No. 13 in the Asian ratings, while Hong Kong and Nepal are ranked Nos. 76 (world) and 15 (Asian) and No.s 100 and 21, respectively.
The group qualifiers are scheduled from September 13 to 25, with the top notchers of the eight groups advancing to the Women’s Asian Cup, joining the Indian hosts and the top 3 finishers of the previous meet to complete the 12-team cast.
“On paper, we should beat both teams and qualify for the Women’s Asian Cup, but we really have to work hard considering we just have over two months to prepare a competitive squad for the qualifiers,” Maro said.
The coach said that he hopes to bring back the core of the national side that placed fourth at the 2019 31st SEA Games women’s football tournament under the tutelage of coach Marnelli Dimzon.
Due to the restrictive local conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gastanes said that the PFF intends to have the national team tryouts and training camp in California in early August before proceeding directly to the Women’s Asian Cup group qualifiers.
“We will bring about 8 to 12 local players to California for the national tryouts and training camp, 2 from Europe and 2 from Australia to join the other national team hopefuls in the US,” said Gastanes, who disclosed that he intends to discuss and finalize the plans with Maro next week.
Among those joining the US tryouts and training camp are defender Cathrine Graversen and midfielder Eva Madarang, who play for Danish club B.93 Pigefodbold and Italian club Roma C.F., respectively.
“We would like to thank the PFF for this opportunity to hold our tryouts and training camp in the US so the national women’s team can enhance its prospects of making it to the Women’s Asian Cup and, hopefully, reach the Women’s World Cup for the first time,” Maro said.
FROM THE ARCHIVES