Three of four Lady Eagles withdraw from PWNT training pool amongst academic schedule conflicts

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ON THE week of March 13, 2017, Ateneo Women’s Football Team (AWFT) Captain Cam Rodriguez, former national team winger Nona Amoncio, and rookie midfielder Nica Siy all expressed their regret in departing from the Philippine Football Women’s National Team (PWNT) training pool, leaving Isay Sabio as the only Lady Eagle in the national pool. In doing this, the three players forego the opportunity to be part of the squad representing the country in the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Cup qualifiers on April 3-12, 2017 in Tajikistan.

International Footballing Context

The Philippines, seeded 11th, were drawn in Group A with 7th seed Jordan, 14th seed Bahrain, and three unseeded nations: United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and qualification stage host Tajikistan. The draw took place on Saturday, January 21, 2017, in Amman, Jordan.

Winners of each group will advance to the 2018 AFC Women’s Cup in Jordan. A special case, however, will take place in Group A, as Jordan is already assured of a slot in the Women’s Cup by virtue of its status as host nation. This means that unlike Groups B, C and D in the AFC Women’s Cup Qualifiers, two teams will qualify from Group A. In the case that Jordan does top the group, the runner-up will also advance to the 2018 AFC Women’s Cup.

The 2018 AFC Women’s Cup will also serve as the qualifying tournament for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in France.

Philippine Football Women’s National Team Preparation

The PWNT held tryouts for local players last February 22, 24, and 28, and for overseas players on March 7-9 at the McKinley Stadium in Taguig, with one day of attendance being enough to be eligible for selection. The tryouts were spearheaded by PWNT head coach Leticia “Buda” Bautista.

Aside from the four, fellow Lady Eagles Bea Velasco and Marianne Caparros were also invited to tryout but both decided not to attend.

On the late morning of March 10, 2017, the four Lady Eagles each received an email from the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) of their selection to the 30-player PWNT training pool. The first day of training would be from 6PM to 8PM of the same day at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Although the Ateneo players were not required to train as they were to play University of Santo Tomas in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Women’s Football Tournament the following day, the Lady Eagles still headed to the practice. The national team’s subsequent trainings would be twice a day at 6AM to 8PM and 4PM to 6PM.

The Big Decisions

The following week, however, after much thought and consideration, Rodriguez, Amoncio, and Siy all made the tough decision to withdraw from the pool.

Rodriguez expressed that she takes full responsibility of her decision due to the timing of the opportunity was unfavorable, given the current situation regarding her individual thesis for her minor in Cultural Heritage required a three-week long data collection process.

“When I asked my thesis adviser about it, she said that ‘no [it wouldn’t be feasible]’ because it [the data collection] has to be complete and it was really going to be so hard. I decided that the cost was just too much.” says the Ateneo Women’s Football team captain.

Nica Siy, the only UAAP rookie part of the training pool, stressed her priorities are in being a student first before an athlete.

“I talked to my professors as well and some of them don’t make it as an excuse, so I can’t commit also to PWNT because that means I will be missing class. So, I thought about it, and student before athlete,” says the Management Engineering freshman.

Information Design senior Nona Amoncio shared the same sentiments as her teammates both about her individual thesis and attending class.

“I just really want to finish my thesis and not overcut. In the first week of tryouts, I cut my [Tuesday-Thursday] class twice so that gives me four more cuts. I talked to some of my professors, and I would have been excused from the activities, but it’s still considered as a cut,” says Amoncio

Isay Sabio, however, offers a different perspective on the opportunity that may not come for her again in the future.

“I have to think about the long term. I’m planning to go to law school. I’m planning to do other stuff aside from football, so I might as well take the opportunity now while I’m at the peak of my career before I retire. Lived it, loved it,” says Sabio

The European Studies senior is also grateful to her thesis partner and captain of the Ateneo Men’s Football Team, Carlo Liay, for understanding the schedule of the event.

“My partner [Liay] is very considerate. Thinking about it kasi, we started summer pa lang, so our data is full and ready. Considering [Liay] plays the same sport and he has the same passion, he’s understanding of the schedule. We play around with our time. Saluhan talaga kami,” she says.

As of March 20, 2017, the number of players in the PWNT training pool has gone down from 30 to 25, meaning only two players from the pool will not be part of the official 23-player squad travelling to Tajikistan.

Editor's Note: The article has been edited to better reflect Rodriguez' views.

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    They should tell their professors that it is not a choice between being a student or athlete. It is between your obligation to your country or to yourself. Are they going to question the importance of postponing their graduation if war beckons and their brothers are drafted into the army?

    Paulino Alcantara, the greatest footballer in Philippine history, and one of the greatest in FC Barcelona history postponed his medical studies and became a legend who is remembered and honored a hundred years later in Spain as well as in the Philippines. He later finished his medical studies and became a urologist. But nobody erects statues to him because he became a doctor.