IT’S not only men’s football that’s growing in the Philippines.
The national girls’ under-14 squad is the latest proof of that after notching a new high by finishing runner-up in the Asian Football Confederation championship for Southeast Asia in Vietnam over the weekend.
Formed just two months ago, the Filipina booters were hoping for just a decent showing in the regional competition.
Instead they exceeded expectations after stunning the host nation, a Southeast Asian powerhouse, in the group stage, and then made the finals for the first time to eclipse their fourth-place finish last year.
The feat came barely two weeks after the Azkals also finished runner up in the AFC Challenge Cup, barely missing a coveted Asian Cup ticket.
“Happening on a World Cup month, this should be a welcome development, propitious for the continuing development of women’s football,” Philippine Football Federation (PFF) secretary general Edwin Gastanes said during the homecoming party for the team held at the federation’s headquarters in Pasig.
“This is a very good result that will encourage more girls to play football,” the lawyer added. “We want to pay attention to women’s football equally with the men’s football.”
The competition has unearthed gems like tournament MVP Joyce Semacio, who had meager prospects when the team entered the competition.
“Kinabahan kami. Akala namin hindi namin kaya, pero kaya pala,” said the soft-spoken Semacio, a 14-year-old pride of Davao.
The PFF has made a conscious effort in developing the distaff side with its organization of the ongoing PFF Women’s Cup, a nine-a-side invitational. The federation is also eyeing to send a squad to the AFC U-16 championships sometime between September and October.
“Siguro dahil na rin sa pagsikat ng Azkals, so sumasabay, kasi marami na ang na-i-involve sa football, kahit babae,” Philippine coach Let Dimzon said.