Rising from Tuloy Foundation, Bandoja gets flag call

Rising from Tuloy Foundation, Bandoja gets flag call

/ 05:10 AM February 18, 2024

Isabella Bandoja

Isabella Bandoja is excited to wear the Filipinas kit. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Isabella Bandoja, whose football dreams began while at Tuloy sa Don Bosco Foundation, will get a chance to showcase her potential along with the likes of Sarina Bolden, Hali Long, Olivia McDaniel and other fixtures of the Philippine women’s football team.

The 22-year-old striker was one of eight newcomers called up by coach Mark Torcaso to take part in this month’s Pinatar Cup in Spain, which at this point is the only tournament on the Filipinas calendar following a busy 2023 that included a maiden appearance in the Fifa (Federation Internationale de Football Association) Women’s World Cup.


“I’ve been called up like a couple of times before, but I just couldn’t make the team,” Bandoja said in Filipino last December when Tuloy hosted members of the Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy at the foundation’s street children village in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.


READ: Pinatar Cup shows Filipinas work needed before World Cup

Those familiar with the women’s team even before its World Cup debut said that Bandoja had been in the pool since 2019, and was invited to take part in Torcaso’s first camp since succeeding Alen Stajcic last year.

“I’m so happy that I’ve been called up again,” she said. “Of course, I have to work hard and improve my skills and show that I deserve to be on the national team.”

Bandoja was one of the pioneer female players of the foundation’s football program that eventually became Tuloy FC, which even prior to the pandemic had participated in several domestic leagues including the Philippine Football Federation Women’s League.

The revived league, the first since the global health crisis, saw Bandoja win a third consecutive Golden Boot award, sharing the honors with La Salle’s Angelica Teves after scoring 19 times during the season. She also got the award in 2018 and 2020, combined for 54 goals in that stretch.

Work on fitness

Bandoja also got an opportunity to play against the likes of Long, who captained Kaya-Iloilo to its first Women’s League title.

“It was a big deal for us to play in those leagues, because it gave us the exposure in terms of how high the caliber of play was,” Bandoja said.


Bandoja admits the need to work on her fitness and ballhandling, especially now that she was named as one of 27 players for the Pinatar Cup, a pocket tournament that will have the Filipinas compete against Scotland and either Slovenia or Finland on Feb. 24 and 27.

Aiselyn Sina and Alexa Pino, who played for the Filipinas U17 in another Spain tourney in the Mima Cup recently, Leah Bradley, Nina Meollo, Camille Sahirul, Rhea Chan and Katrina Norman are the other first-timers on the senior teams.Torcaso also tapped Dionesa Tolentin, another top domestic player for Kaya and Far Eastern University who had four caps for the national team.

Bolden, Long, McDaniel, Sara Eggesvik, Katrina Guillou, Quinley Quezada, Angela Beard, Jaclyn Sawicki, Sofia Harrison and Tahnai Annis headline the Filipinas squad for its second Pinatar Cup stint.

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Also in the roster are Jessica Miclat, Bella Pasion, Meryll Serrano, Maya Alcantara, Reina Bonta, Jessika Cowart, Bella Flanigan and Chandler McDaniel.

TAGS: Football, Foundation

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