|A SPORTING HEROES' WELCOME. The Malditas arrived on a humid Manila evening after playing their best football in chilly Tajikistan.|
MANILA -- In spite of their arrival schedule falling on the most solemn of holidays, the significantly fewer amount of people in NAIA's Centennial Terminal gave the necessary acknowledgement to the Philippine Women's National Football Team after arriving four hours ago in a Good Friday evening.
Even those who are not so familiar with the sport, the fact that they saw the women donning "PILIPINAS" on their blue shirts gave them the due honor they deserved after a history-making feat in which they qualified for the Women's Asian Cup for the first time since 2003 years and also the first to introduce a qualifier.
A big network was also on site as well to interview the coach and some members of the team that showed the overall appreciation of what this team has achieved.
Asked for a quick interview regarding how it feels regarding the qualification, Malditas gaffer Leticia Bautista shared that it seems everything still hasn't sunk in yet.
"Until now wala pa akong word (to accurately describe the feeling). But I feel very happy for the qualification," Coach Buda said, noting that the student-athlete core of the 19-strong squad will have to get back in action next week for UAAP football in which there are two more match days left in the Women's tournament.
When asked about Alesa Dolino's injury from their loss to Jordan last Wednesday, Coach Buda stated that she still needs to undergo further checkup to assess the extent of the actual damage to her leg.
Finally, on what is next for the Malditas, the gaffer was hopeful that better preparation is in store.
"Hopefully mas mahabang preparation na. Siguro pahinga lang ng konti then pag-uusapan yung preparation for next year," said the first Filipina to lead the women's national team who is now on her third year in charge.
When pressed regarding the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August: "Syempre yung positive result nito kung tuloy-tuloy (in terms of riding the momentum), maagang preparation and ipapatawag yung other players to make it stronger then malaki yung chance natin (to go to the SEA Games)," she concluded, noting that the PFF have submitted a 60-women preliminary roster to the joint SEA Games task force.
Skipper Patrice Impelido as well shared that she is still out of words but all in all were excited of the qualification.
What's next for the Malditas is definitely something to look forward to.
(Dugout Philippines' football chief Kevin Estrada contributed to this report)
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