Hali Long was again part of another important step for the country’s women’s football scene on Saturday, this time sporting the black kits of Kaya-Iloilo instead of the white, blue or red shirts of the Filipinas.
“It’s both an honor and a responsibility,” Long said after the 1-0 win over Manila Digger in the final handed Kaya the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Women’s League crown at Rizal Memorial Stadium, where she shared the spotlight with goalscorer Sheen Nicole Ramores and eventual tournament Most Valuable Player, Shelah Cadag.
Together with goalkeeper Inna Palacios and Camille Rodriguez who also have vast national team experiences, Long was among those who made it possible for Kaya to become the first club to win the women’s league title after the last three editions were won by collegiate team La Salle.
Ramores produced the winner in the 86th minute when she struck off Manila Digger goalkeeper Ayishatu Simpson, delivering on Kaya coach Let Dimzon’s belief that she can have a big impact on the right side.
Cadag emerged as the best player after producing 12 goals during the season, which saw Kaya top the eliminations before ousting La Salle in the semis, which atoned for the disappointment of last year’s shock semifinal exit in the PFF Women’s Cup.
Other good players include Simpson, who despite giving up the goal was named as the best keeper of the tournament, La Salle’s Angelica Teves and Tuloy FC’s Isabella Bandoja, sharing the top goalscorer award with 19 each.
These are some of the players who will be key in the hope that the league can continue to grow in the aftermath of every historic feat achieved by the Filipinas on the international stage, namely their participation in the Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) Women’s World Cup a few months ago.
“That’s the good thing about the increased support in women’s football is that the clubs are getting better and that there are stakeholders who are investing,” said Dimzon, praising Digger for making it far despite in its first appearance in a major domestic competition.
It’s still unknown at the moment if new clubs will enter the scene in the future, but sponsors are expected to stay, particularly the Women’s League’s major backer in Coca-Cola Philippines. INQ