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U-14 Malditas aim for gold in AFC tilt

Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

LOS BANOS--Last year, the Philippine U-14 girls' football team made a surprise run in last year's AFC U-14 Championship, beating all odds and going to the final.

This year, they will be looking to finish what they started.

Inspired by their impressive performance, the U-14 Malditas will gun for the AFC title as they will play once more in the Asian championship beginning on Tuesday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Eighteen young female footballers from all across the country were chosen from hundreds of aspirants and 33 who made the initial part of the training camp to comprise the national team that will look to better their silver medal finish last year. They were officially introduced during a send-off party at the Continuing Education Center of UP Los Banos on Saturday.

Coaching the U-14 Malditas will be Lilet Dimzon, who was also the chief tactician of last year's team that finished second.

One of Dimzon's associates, Joyce Ladacan, expressed her confidence that Dimzon will lead the team to the championship this time.

Ladacan said, "Coach Lilet is best doon sa posisyon niya kasi she's very good in grassroots and technical and tactical aspects."

Dimzon, on the other hand, said that she made the most out of the training camp which lasted for a month, most of the time being done in Los Banos.

"We were trying na magkaroon talaga ng bonding ang mga players kasi pinagmi-mix namin from provinces and Manila kahit sa meal time at sa practice din," the coach said about she forged the camaraderie and the friendship of the players.

She also revealed that despite the short time allotted, she was able to give some of her midfielders the needed skills to play defenders.

Dimzon bared, "We had problems regarding with the positions, so may mga players na coming from midfielders, we converted them to defenders. We tried to look what are the weaknesses of the team."

On the other hand, PFF Secretary-General Ed Gastanes admitted that he had to convince school officials to lend the players because of the difference of the Philippine academic calendar than the other countries.

"Only the Philippines has a different school schedule than the other ASEAN countries. That's a big problem. Right now, the other countries, it's vacation time for them, but for us, we have classes. I have to write, convince the schools of these girls to allow them and not fail them in their grades because they are to make up for their lost classes," Gastanes revealed.

Despite the short time of preparation and the academic concerns of the players, Gastanes expressed confidence that they will win it all.

"These girls would not come here to train and be away from their families unless they are not motivated for the flag and for the country. Some of them are shy, but you have to see them play on the field.... We have high confidence of their ability.... Everything is possible in football," he said.