The Philippines U16 Women’s National Football Team is headed for Nepal for the first phase of the AFC U16 Women’s Championship 2019 qualifiers. This competition is also a qualifier for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. The Philippines is bracketed in a four-team single-round-robin group with the hosts, Malaysia, and Myanmar.
The Pinays kick off their campaign against Nepal on September 19, then tackle Malaysia two days later. On the 23rd they meet Myanmar. The group winner qualifies for the next stage of qualification in Thailand next February, as well as some of the best second-placers among the several groups.
Joyce Landagan is the head coach, and she will be assisted by Marielle Benitez and goalie coach Elyo Dillera. Anna Demegillo is the physiotherapist. Buda Bautista will chip in as technical advisor.
Benitez was the coach for this age group when they participated in the AFF U16 girls championship in Palembang, Indonesia.
The holdovers from that bunch include striker Maria Lazo from DLSZ, Midfielder Traci Lim from ICA, MJ Villacin from Bacolod, Bela Hoskings, a Fil-Brit from Thailand, Abigail Taylor, a home-grown Filipina-Brit from British School Manila, her schoolmate Izzy Ong, and Swiss-raised Filipina goalie Isabel Mapanao.
Other Palembang vets include Kylie Panagan from La Trinidad, Benguet, Bianca Sy from Dipolog, and Jean Templaza from Compostela Valley.
Centerback Eunique Bocalan is unable to travel with the group. The likely starter suffered an unfortunate ACL tear in training.
The coaching staff is enthusiastic about the new additions to the side. Jianna Simons from Hong Kong is a composed midfielder while Dallas-raised Keane Alamo, who just moved to Clark, brings quality to the center of the park.
Two girls from Olongapo also emerged through the trials. Goalie Odeza Yap will push Mapanao for the starting slot while Lyka Cuenco, a center back, will help fill the void from Bocalan’s absence.
Another new face is Davaoeña Jelli Diamante, the youngest of the footballing Diamante siblings that include former U19 NT player Gelo, Gio, and Jed. All the boys played for DLSU in the UAAP.
“Jelli is a thinking player at may palo din,” says Benitez.
Another Davaoeña, defender Lianne Co, is a new addition to the roster as is a third young lady from Davao, goalie Garrie Tan.
Micha Santiago, Astrid Ignacio, and Alyanna Yatco are other names on the roster from NCR.
“My system will be very simple but I will allow the girls to create and think on their own,” says Landagan.
The squad played some friendlies recently, beating Green Archers United’s ladies but losing to Tuloy Foundation’s excellent women’s side. The girls did notch an fine win against DLSU Canlubang’s boys team.
The coaches were impressed with Taylor, the youngest in the camp, born in 2005. She got nary a minute of action in Palembang but will likely get playing time in Kathmandhu.
“I can see huge potential with her,” says Landagan.
Cuenco has been one of the revelations of the camp, showing maturity beyond her years.
“She has game sense and can build up from the back,” marvels Benitez.
The team trained in the PFF Artificial Turf Pitch in San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona Cavite, as did the squad that went to Palembang.
“The girls feel at home here” says Benitez.
Dillera is grateful for the complex since “the girls can really focus here and we can train even when it’s raining.”
“I’m excited about the upcoming dorms and lights,” says Landagan.
“The lights will be a really big help.”
Manila Jockey Club VP for Marketing, Eduardo Ramirez de Arellano is proud of their contribution to the national age-group teams.
“We wish the best of luck to this team and we know that training on our world-class field is a big boost to them.”
Manila Jockey Club owns and administers the San Lazaro Leisure Park where the field is situated.
There will be more great football action coming up in San Lazaro. In October the inaugural University Alumni League will take place in both the artificial and natural-grass pitches in SLLP. Dillera and Benitez are slated to suit up for the DLSU ladies alumni while Landagan will play for her Alma Mater, UST.