The news sent me scurrying to the attic to fumble in the dark with my watawat (behave yourselves). With girls’ football and Wendyball now equivalent in every way, the crafty chaps at association football’s governing body Fifa expected to get paid the same television rights for July’s women’s football World Cup as for the World Cup proper. The ensuing long drawn-out media catfight has resulted in no publicity for the Austraila and New Zealand-based tournament – until now. A deal has been done. The matches will be on the telly. Alex Scott has had her leave cancelled until August. Between now and then, expect to be bombarded with adverts, trailers and Clare Balding.
The good news for those of us that wake up with the sunrise (and fall asleep at our desks after lunch) is that the Gods of the time zones have decreed that the matches will kick off at breakfast our time.
Better still, looking down the fixture list I was thrilled to see a new name on the roster of world football finalists, ladies or otherwise. I’m sure I’m not the only Puffin who is excited to hear that none other than the Naughty Girls have qualified and will kick off against Switzerland at a watchable 6 am on Friday 21st July.
News that sent me scurrying to the attic to pull out the derring-do box from beneath my model railway to look for my red, white, blue and sun-spangled watawat national flag, last used by this humble author to tie a terrorist’s hands together (while disguised as a nun) on a particularly bad day in Luzon many decades ago. Mrs Ming Ramos administered a kiss to my cheek. The Pope sent a bottle of wine. One doesn’t like to boast, but there is a street named after me in an unfashionable subdivision of Bacolod. Taps nose.
Puffins eager to spot a Naughty Girl need to know that their kit is predominantly white with diagonal blue lines of varying thickness forming vertical stripes down the front. This owes more to supplier Adidas’s branding than to anything to do with the archipelago.
If you’re wondering about the collars and cuffs, every gal in the islands has a healthy mop of glossy jet-black hair, nicely complimented by Adidas’s crew neck collar of white and yellow, with blue sleeve cuffs upon a yellow trim.
What? Archipelago. Bacolod. Luzon. General Ramos’s wife. Watawat. The Philippines, where else?
With nutty identity politics victimhood period embarrassment unknown outside the confines of the BBC and one or two loony North London postcodes, shorts are white. As with the period nonsense, they’ll be no silliness during the anthems or on the podium. Kneeling, tantrums, raised fists and affinity claptrap are for dippy girls, not Naughty Girls.
When she won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Mindanao lady weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz saluted the rising flag and belted out an emotional rendition of the national anthem at the top of her voice, despite having to wear a mask. Tears of pride ran down her cheeks. Added to which, any national anthem that includes the word ‘dibdib’ deserves respect.
As for that nickname. Respectable broadsheet media prefer ‘Filipinas’ but the team’s actual nickname is ‘Malditas’. The prudes at Wikipedia claim Malditas doesn’t have an equivalent in English. They are fibbing. In fact, in much the same way that the England girlies are known as the Lionesses, Malditas is the female plural of maldito,
However, maldito is a very rude word that can’t be translated properly on a family blog, or even by the maiden aunts on Google Translate. Out of a rare and unusual politeness to English speakers, the earthy country natives avoid their usual farm yard translations and will call this ‘badasses’ but it really means the following.
However, this denies the female, therefore your humble reviewer of ladies’ football teams feels justified to use his own more accurate translation, ‘Naughty Girls’.
Grass on the pitch?
Those Naughty Girls have done super-super good considering the circumstances. With popular local sports being the likes of basketball, volleyball and cockfighting – which can be accommodated on small, hard, rough surfaces – there is a shortage of decent football pitches. Added to which, owing to climate and soil, useful types of grass don’t thrive. People who understand such things inform me in lowland areas of the Philippines, the grasses are usually “saw-grass”, especially cogon and talahib. These are abrasive and patchy when compared to a mild English meadow.
Bakey heat between deluges, rather than steady precipitation, doesn’t help either. Neither do occasional sprinklings of volcanic ash. Over here, perennial ryegrass is most commonly used for sports pitches, as it is fast-growing and can typically withstand football usage. Certain rye grasses are better suited than others, as the species vary widely. The most sought-after surface used to be sea-washed Solway turf lifted from the salt marshes along the North Cumbrian coast, although these days there has been an intrusion of hybrid synthetic and grass surfaces.
This is of no help to the Naughty Girls 8,000 miles away.
Back in my day, the best pitch in the country was at Santo Tomas University in Manila, the oldest university in SE Asia and home to the internees during the Japanese occupation of World War Two. By English standards, the pitch was ordinary. Plus, it wasn’t surrounded by a stadium. Added to which, any empty patch of land was a tin hut magnet. Likewise, anything green and trying to poke out of the sun-baked ground became squatters’ goat and horse fodder.
Fortunately, the ladies were able to qualify for their World Cup finals without playing any matches at home, rather as a losing semi-finalist (2-0 defeat to South Korea) in last year’s Women’s Asian Cup. During the competition (hosted in India) the Naughty Girls beat Thailand 1-0, and Indonesia 6-0 but lost to Australia 4-0 and finished in second place in their group.
In the quarterfinals, they beat Chinese Taipei (ie Tawain) on penalties after a 1-1 draw following extra time. That semi-final loss was against eventual runners-up South Korea who were defeated 3-2 in the final by tournament winners China. In another departure from the men’s game, amongst the five, six and seven nils there was an 18-0 when Australia demolished Indonesia.
Before we celebrate the Naughty Girls and their tropical paradise islands there is a cloud on the horizon, a dark cloud hovering over the other side of the Pacific. In much the same way that in the World Cup proper, Africa play in blue shirts puzzlingly bedecked with a French badge, most of the Philippines women’s squad were born in America, often to Filipino mothers and American fathers.
Their training camp is in California. That semi-final line-up contained not one Philippines-born player. All were born in the States. As for the rest of the squad, Meryll Serrano was born in Norway and represented that country as an U-21 and U-23.
However, there is hope.
The PFF Women’s Cup
Pre-covid, a woman’s league of sorts was composed of teams from collegiate associations such as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and amateur women’s clubs. Ten teams played a total of 45 matches in a one-off round-robin. Nearly all the games took place on the artificial pitch at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite, just south of Manila – with as many games as possible squeezed into as few days as possible. Other matches were played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in central Manila. All visitors to the capital will have seen the Rizal as it sits beside the north/south LRT elevated railway.
After the pandemic, the PFF eventually organised a women’s cup which took place between 5th November and 17th December 2022, again at Cavite. The hope being that the competition would serve as a breeding ground for the next generation of Naughty Girls.
According to their website, at the outset PFF president Mariano Araneta, Jr. and general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes highlighted the importance of a sustainable women’s competition for the growth of women’s football in the country. “The PFF Women’s Cup is the restart of healthy competition among women’s football teams here in the Philippines,” said Araneta. “The success of the Filipinas [Naughty Girls] means that we must continue developing players for the national team, and the PFF Women’s Cup is one of the avenues to hone promising and up-and-coming players.”
The competition saw eight participating teams compete in a single-round robin elimination stage with the top four teams advancing to the knockout stages.
Matches were played every Saturday and Sunday, with midweek games on Wednesdays. Live streaming was available on the PFF Facebook and YouTube channels.
The top four teams turned out to be Far East University, Tuloy, University of the Philippines and the only team from outside of the Metro Manila area, Kaya-FC of Iloilo. Amongst more big scores, Far Eastern University (? Did they) capped off their season by clinching the cup after a 2-0 win over the University of the Philippines in the final match on Saturday 17 December 2022 at Cavite.
As for the Women’s World Cup, the bookies place the Naughty Girls at 33/1. Not to win the whole competition but to beat Switzerland in their opening match. The Swiss are at 1/16 on. Those might sound short odds but the USA are 1/250 on to beat the Vietnamese.
In a measure of the difference in quality between the qualifiers, a friend familiar with the turf informs me a one-penny accumulator placed on Vietnam, Costa Rica, Haiti, Jamaica, Morocco, Panama and the Philippines to win their first matches would return slightly north of £32 billion.
In partial explanation, he reminds me of the old football adage, “A good big ‘un is always going to be better than a good little ‘un.” One recalls the Iran lady goalkeeper.
Short of inches as well as canny punters, none of the Philippine team (even the goalie) are as tall as this humble author who tips the scales at a modest 5’ 9”. Katrina Guillou is 5’2”, Tahnai Annis, only 5’ 1”.
Dwarfed by the European, Australasian, African and North American teams, the Naughty Girls have no chance of winning but those familiar with the archipelago can assure you that the ladies will actually enjoy playing, have pride in their country and will all be real girlie girls of a refreshingly feminine persuasion – naughty or otherwise.
If you really must know, on some of the more remote islands, dibdib can mean boobies. Puffins will be relieved to read that context changes this to ‘of the heart’ in the national anthem.
© Always Worth Saying 2023