Veteran Inna Palacios and sophomore Sara Castaneda will suit up anew for the Philippine Women’s National Football Team, also known as the Malditas. The pair will also be joined by Cristine Duran, Irish Navaja, and Nina Arrieta. “I feel blessed and excited being called up for the team, especially that a couple of us are coming from DLSU. It is a great way for us to get exposure,” Castaneda says.
She also appears to be upbeat as her younger sister Anicka from De La Salle Zobel was also included in the women’s team for the first time, and adds, “My sister and I are finally teammates. The last time we were teammates was when I was in high school and we would just play 7 a-side games.”
She explains furthermore, “She joined the youth [national team] for a while, but didn’t want to continue. I’m glad that now she continued because she’s good.”
A testament to Smit’s program
The selection of head coach Hans Smit’s players to the Malditas once again proved to be another testament to his successful program at La Salle. “It’s a fact that ever since I handled the women’s, there has always been players, some of them [are] even coaches of the national team in the youth level. It’s there.”
Palacios, Castaneda, and Navaja were named to last season’s UAAP Team of the Year in La Salle’s second-place finish to the UP Lady Maroons. Furthermore, Palacios was named Best Goalkeeper while Castaneda took home Rookie of the Year and Best Midfielder honors, along with finishing as the co-Golden Boot winner. Despite not receiving any individual awards last year, Duran and Arrieta continue to be dependable at full-back and center midfield, respectively for the Green-and-White.
Prior to their departure from Manila last March 31, the Lasallians trounced the ADMU Lady Eagles, 5-0, to clinch their sixth win in as many games. To make way for the international meet, the UAAP has adjusted its football schedule, hence, DLSU will resume its women’s football campaign on April 19 as of press time versus the defending champions, the UP Lady Maroons.
Road to the Women’s Asian Cup
The Malditas will take part in the qualifiers of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup, which is scheduled from April 3 to 12, 2017. The Filipinas are slated to play in Group A in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Joining the Philippines and the host country are Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates.
“For me, the key there is for the UAAP girls to really blend. They didn’t have that much time to play together,” shares Smit. He explains further, “What I instilled in my girls, ‘You’re not in the UAAP anymore’. It’s flag and country. You give more than 110 percent. You freakin’ die for your country. You do what you have to do. There’s no 50-50.”
The winner of the aforementioned group will book a ticket to the final tournament of the Women’s Asian Cup which will take place in Jordan in 2018. Despite booking a seat in next year’s competition as hosts, Jordan will still take part in the qualifying stages. In the event that the Jordanians conclude Group A in first place, the runner-up will also advance to the Women’s Asian Cup proper.
He concluded with his message to his La Salle players, saying, “Keep warm. Always put your best foot forward whether you’re called to play or not, off the bench or starting. There’s no La Salle, FEU, or other teams there. It’s the national team. Everyone’s wearing the same uniform with the flag on their chest.”