Mon 22 July 2024

FROM THE GROUND UP: Pinay street girls get spotlight in Doha

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Women’s football in the Philippines is at an all-time high in 2022 through the achievements of the Filipinas national team, who booked a 2023 Women’s World Cup ticket, a bronze medal in the Southeast Asian Games, and the crown at the ASEAN Football Federation Championship.

See also: QUEENS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA: Filipinas win PH’s 1st AFF crown

But as the Filipinas are sharpening their arrows in a string of monthly friendlies leading to football’s top plum, their children counterpart, specifically street girls from various urban poor communities in Metro Manila, are targeting another podium finish in the 2022 Street Child World Cup in Doha.

The team will face Latin American powerhouse Peru at the competition’s quarterfinals on Saturday evening, with the tournament’s final day starting at 8 PM, Manila time.

The street kids team is composed of six standouts from Payatas, Quezon City, two from Tondo, Manila, and two from Gawad Kalinga communities, according to team manager Roy Moore, executive director of the Fairplay For All Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Payatas.

The Street Child World Cup is set apart firstly because of its purpose and secondly for who can take part. The purpose is to raise awareness of children living or working in the streets. For us, it’s showing how they deserve support, and how when we support children on the streets and in poor communities well, they give it back more,” Moore explained to Fullcourtfresh.com.

The Philippines has won four games and lost two in the seven-a-side competition to finish at second place in Group A.

In the 2014 edition, the Philippines’ had its best finish so far as they closed they fell to Brazil 0-1 in the final. In 2018, the country missed a medal against England, 0-2, in the battle for third, while a Philippine contingent placed third in the tournament’s inaugural year in 2010.

Fairplay For All Foundation managed the country’s representative for the past two editions.

“The group stage was tough but good overall. They weren’t at full speed in most games but 4 wins and 2 losses is decent,” Moore describes.

“The girls are happy and tired and excited and so many things. It’s been a great experience. They’ve done the country proud already, showing how kind and respectful and creative and talented Pinays are,” he continued.

Grassroots development

Candidates for the final team lineup train ahead of the competition during a training session in August. All photos courtesy of Team Philippines Street Child World Cup.

While football is still seen as a sport for the privileged in the Philippines, Moore and the people behind Fairplay for All Foundation have been organizing urban poor youth through football. According to their website, the children in Payatas became curious about football at the height of the popularity of the Philippine Azkals, the men’s national team.

Payatas, once a dirt poor slum area now enjoying the fruits of the housing struggle waged by its residents, is located near Metro Manila’s biggest dumpsite.

“We hope to keep most of the players together in our women’s team. And then help support them into college,” Moore said about the foundation’s plan to the current players after the World Cup.

“A 2018 player is now at FEU in full varsity scholarship, others are now in college. And then help them with finding solid work. Many of the 2022 batch are already youth leaders in Payatas, tutoring younger FairPlay Scholars or coaching at the Payatas Sports Center,” Moore continued

The Street Child World Cup contingent visits the Philippine Embassy. Filipinos in Doha “have showed up to support the team, it’s been like home field advantage,” said Moore.

Supporting football from below

Moore pointed out the potential of the street girls of being the next football stalwarts of the Philippines.

“Girls here have huge potential and definitely homegrown talents should get more of the spotlight. . . [W]e hope to see more leagues and tournaments and NT coaches scouting the 7s and 11-a-side leagues here,” Moore remarked.

He also noted the nagging predicament of training inaccessibility for footballing kids from poor communities.

“As it stands, if a girl wants to play football in her local community she can’t. If she can’t afford the P1,000 academy fees per session and isn’t near one of the community teams, there’s just nowhere to play,” Moore explained.

Moore disclosed that the Street Child World Cup teams have not received support from government sports bodies and the Philippine Football Federation.

“There’s far more untapped potential here and with the right vision and support the Philippines could grow into one of the world’s best,” Moore concluded.” If you want a one in a million talent, you need a million kids playing.

With reporting from Ronin Bautista

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