“Why shouldn’t we play? We have feet to use, eyes to see, mind to think and the confidence to win. Everything that a boy can do, we also can.”, 12-year-old Cresil Mae Penachos of Borongan said during the LFA Women’s Day Football Festival last March 8, 2014. Cresil Mae, together with 77 other girls and women went to University of the Philippines Visayas – Tacloban College football field to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Throughout the course of history, women have always been considered as the weaker gender. Football, being the most prominent team sport played by women, played at the professional level in many countries throughout the world with 176 national teams take part internationally.
Women’s football has faced many struggles throughout its history. In 1921, The Football Association initiated a ban that disallowed women’s football games from the grounds used by its member clubs and it stayed in effect until July 1971. Despite being a developing country with an immense history with European countries, football never won the hearts of the Filipinos.
Mention ‘AZKALS’ to any Filipino and they would immediately say “Men’s National Team for Football”, and yet when you ask them about ‘MALDITAS’, they will only give you a blank stare. It is because unlike the men’s team, there were less media exposure for the women until the recent years when our women’s team won the 2012 LA Viking Cup. Although the Women’s National Team for Football has competed since 1981, the country has yet to give equal opportunities for women seeking to have a career in football. While there is a men’s national league for football, there are no leagues for women.
The case is no different for Tacloban, Fundlife International however is creating a positive change in the field of sports, with their ‘Football for Life’ (F4L) programme wherein they conduct daily training sessions in nine sites across Tacloban. As a show of support for International Women’s Day, Fundlife Int’l encouraged girls under the F4L to join and was not disappointed. More than half of the participants at the festival were from the programme.
It was a fun-filled yet competitive day, where girls shared their love for football and meet new friends. One of the few sport moments, where boys and men were the sideliners ad spectators. Among the teams that joined the festival were the Tacloban Pintadas, an all-girl team formed last January to inspire the participants to actively engage in the programme. Coming back from their first competition in Thirsty Cup held in Cebu, where they managed to make it into the semi-finals beating more experienced teams, the girls once again showcased their skills during the event where they secured a 4th place finish.
Fundlife International sees the vital role that football can have in a woman’s life. According to the United Nations, when girls get involved in sports they are more likely to attend school and participate in society. When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society.
Women’s football has huge potential in the Philippines, with the Malditas currently rank 80th in FIFA despite the recent fiasco which stopped the women from participating in international competitions last year. Filipinas are the most undervalued talents in Philippine football. Let us not indignation or despondency paralyze us from pursuing women’s right to football and sports in general. We need to prove why we rank 9th in world for gender equality.
In spite of the limited promotion and opportunities across the globe, popularity and participation in women’s football continues to grow. Women’s football around the world tends be a mere speck of dust compared to the men’s but we can turn this massive stumbling block into a golden opportunity. A massive transformation has yet to happen for Filipina football players. Filipinas can excel in football given their performance in the international matches but to secure the winning formula in the global arena in the future, we have to start improving local women’s football as early as now. We can help these girls in their paths to success and equality.
Very few girls who play Football will make it to the top-level, but more than producing champion female football players, Fundlife International’s aim is to allow girls to believe they can become champions in any career they choose to pursue. Football provides a visible stage for girls and women to stand equal to men. If we can inculcate that message to all girls to take off the field, then we’re on our way to ensuring a farer, more gender unbiased future exists.
For now, let’s play, smile and continue to share and work on our dreams, both girls and boys, as one.