Inspired by Filipinas, Makati FC girls running with the boys
When the Philippine national women’s football team blazed a trail of unprecedented success this year—qualifying, in fact, for the 2023 Women’s World Cup—members of the squad hoped they had done enough to light competitive fires in the hearts of young girls.
Some 2,400 kilometers away, the inspiration the team created is producing tangible results.
A group of young kids representing the Makati Football Club (Makati FC) is currently competing in the Junior Soccer School and League (JSSL) Singapore Professional Academy 7s, including girls who have been motivated by the groundbreaking Filipinas. And these girls are seeing action in the boys’ competition.
“In the Philippines, only a fraction of girls ages 5 to 18 play football and a few of schools offer girls the chance to play football,” said coach SeLu Lozano, who is also Makati FC’s director and president. “Seeing the Filipinas win in the [AFF Women’s Cup] … with a good crowd cheering them on was an inspiration.”
“Watching our national team Play AFF live in our home turf, Rizal Memorial Stadium made me feel good and more motivated to play,” Ariana Gementiza, who is seeing action in the Boys 10 age group, told the Inquirer via message. “And I hope that one day I will be just like them [playing for flag and country].“
After being forced into hiatus by the COVID-19 pandemic, the young kids are also excited to finally see action for the first time in over two years.
“Best thing about this tournament is playing football for the first time in the international arena and being able to compete in a high caliber tournament against other international clubs,” Martina Horn, playing for the Boys 11 age class, told the Inquirer also via message. “Of course, there is also spending time with my friends who I met through football.”
And they’re making the most out of their stint at Our Tampines Hub, battling the boys.
“Playing with boys makes us girls improve faster,” said Carlene Dy, Horn’s teammate. “But I am looking forward to play in an all girls division and represent my club and country. The girls are playing spectacular football. You can see display of strength and leadership from all of the players,” said Lozano. “They are allowed to play in an age group that’s a year younger than they are, which gives the team an advantage having them. They have been a key factor to our great performance in this tournament.”
Gementiza, Horn and Dy are not the only girls currently seeing action in the boys division of the tournament that started Friday and will end on Sunday.
Gementiza’s teammates in Boys 10 include centerback Annika Gutierrez and midfielders Julia Kabatay and Riko Takahashi. At press time, they were running third in their division.
The Boys 12 team of Makati FC features goalkeeper Brooke Solis, center back Mia Layug and midfielder Andie Bautista. The team is second in their group and qualified for Sunday’s knockout phase. Left back Ella Chua, meanwhile, is the only girl in the Boys 9 team which qualified for the semifinals on Sunday.
“Through our programs, we continue to give opportunity for the children so they strive to be better not only in football but in life. It is our mission as the longest running club in the Philippines to give the youth a pathway where they can fulfill their fullest potential,” said coach Tomas Lozano, the former Real Madrid member who founded the Makati Football Club and started the club system in the country in 1976.
SeLu Lozano added that the stint in Singapore is part of Makati FC’s plans for a bigger goal.
“We look forward to be able to compete in an all-girls tournament in the coming months as we prepare for the Gothia World Youth Cup in 2023,” he said.
Who knows? Maybe these young girls will build on the run of glory the Filipinas have started with their own appearance in the world stage.