Brilliant girls’ clean-sheet golden run highlights Makati FC’s overall title
Before every game during the 2023 JSSL Singapore Academy 7s tournament in Singapore, Ella Chua and the rest of the backline crew of Makati FC’s Girls 2011 team made a pact among themselves.
“We really communicated well, even days before, and told ourselves we have to protect our goalkeeper no matter what,” Chua told the Inquirer late Sunday afternoon.
“We wanted to make sure no one really got past us,” added fellow defender Juju Kabatay.
After Ariana Gementiza scored the lone goal in the final, Makati FC’s defense held strong against Northern Tigers FC for a 1-0 victory to claim the championship in their age group.
“It felt amazing when I scored the goal,” Gementiza, the 10-year-old midfielder and team captain, said. “I couldn’t believe I scored from a tight angle. It was like the best thing that happened in my life.”
“After Ariana scored, we stopped our opponents’ from attacking our goal,” left wing Annika Gutierrez, 11, said.
The Girls 2011’s defense produced clean sheets all the way to their gold, which gave Makati FC the Paul Parker trophy as the tournament’s overall champion—helped by solid performances by the delegation across age groups.
The Girls 2009, Boys 2011and Boys 2009 all finished with silvers. Makati FC’s Boys 2014 and Boys 2008 squads bagged bronzes each.
This was the second overall trophy for Makati FC in the seven times it participated in Asia’s top-notch youth football championship, which this year drew 450 teams from 17 countries.
Makati FC’s squad also featured first-timers such as Javi de Jesus, who was part of the third-place Boys 2014 team.
“I was so excited when I was on the plane and I trained almost every day [for the tournament],” De Jesus, 8, said.
For Chua, Kabatay and Gutierrez, it was a return to a familiar playground.
“Nobody expected us to win gold because it was our first JSSL stint as an all-girls team and because last JSSL [we played with the] boys and we finished third,” Gutierrez said.
“It was a lot of pressure because it was an all-girls category,” Chua said.
The team’s solid defenses resulted in clean sheets in all their matches en route to the gold.
“I really didn’t expect to win [the gold] or get that far,” Kabatay said. “Last time, because of the pandemic, there were not that many good teams. Now that everything is better and all, there were a lot of better teams and good players who joined.”
In the end, the Girls 2011 team proved Makati FC was the best of them all. INQ