Malditas welcome FIFA funding, hope part of it goes to improving PH women’s football

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jul 22 2020 09:26 AM | Updated as of Jul 22 2020 09:48 AM

National women’s team coach Lelet Dimzon has some definite ideas how the Philippine Football Federation can use the $500,000 (around P25 million) grant it received from the International Football Federation, the sport’s world governing body, to boost local women’s football development.

“First of all, it was a good initiative by FIFA to also focus on women’s football worldwide, given the success of the Women’s World Cups in 2015 and 2019,” noted Dimzon, who steered the Malditas to the semifinals of the 30th Southeast Asian Games women’s football tournament last December.

The highlight of that stint was their goalless draw against Myanmar, considered a women’s regional power, in the group stage, although the hosts narrowly lost, 1-2, in their bronze medal match at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

It was the best finish by the Filipina footballers in the SEA Games since a local side led by former Philippine Olympic Committee president Cristy Ramos placed third in the 1985 Games in Bangkok, in a field of three teams. 

Dimzon, who also handled the Philippines in the 2015 Singapore and 2017 Malaysia SEA Games, was hopeful that some of the funds would go to improving the PFF Women’s League “by adding more teams to the league and more tournaments so that we can have more games to play.

“I look forward to this happening because our national women’s teams often have a short time of preparations for international competitions,” she said.

Stallion-Laguna FC mentor Ernie Nierras, who also managed the national women’s squad in the 2005, 2007 and 2013 SEAG, bared that with the fresh infusion of FIFA funds for women’s football “I can honestly tell you now that the PFF has a program in place. 

“We must not forget women’s football and I believe PFF general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes said as much in the recent PFF press conference.” 

Nierras, who coined the moniker “Malditas” for the PH women’s squad, said “the PFF is excited because of the results that we saw with the women’s squad in the last SEA Games. It was a very good indicator where women’s football is headed.”

Dimzon said the PFF should also continue to sustain its women’s programs in the Under-14 and Under-16 age groups “and hopefully the Under-19 in the future. We can have local youth competitions regionally leading to a national tournament where players can be exposed to more games and gain better experience.”

She was sad to see these PFF programs scuttled this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing those aged 20 years old and below to stay home so as not to spread the contagion.

Once the restrictions are eased, Dimzon looked forward for the national team starting preparations for the 2023 Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand to begin right away.

FIFA Executive Council announced two weeks ago that the Women’s World Cup finals has been expanded to 32 teams from 24, boosting the country’s chances of making it to the global soccer showcase. 

The Malditas actually outdid the Azkals one year ahead of the latter in 2018, reaching the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, a qualifier for the 2019 Women’s WC in France, in Amman, Jordan.

They finished with one win and two losses in the group stage before bowing to South Korea 0-5 in the knockout match for the fifth and last Asian slot for the Women’s World Cup. 

“We should have a lot of friendly matches against East Asian countries before we begin our campaign in the World Cup qualifiers next year,” Dimzon. “It must be year-round preparations and not merely weeks before the start of the tournament.”

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