Battle and Bleed: A Captain's look back at 2011

By: Marielle M. Benitez - twitter: @mariellebenitez

Thu. Mar. 22, 2012

Battle and Bleed: A Captain's look back at 2011
PHILIPPINES - IF my 2011 were to be summarized in three words, it would be “Battle and Bleed''.  As the battle cry of the Malditas, “Battle and Bleed” defined who we were as a team as we prepared for our first ever tournament since 2008, the AFF Women’s Championships in Vientienne, Laos.  

“Battle” meant competing against the best national squads of South East Asia like Thailand and Myanmar.  It meant obstacles we faced as Malditas, from getting permission from the Universities to play for the squad, getting a training schedule where most are available, surviving the mental and physical demands of being a national athlete and playing at the highest competitive level we possibly could consider that out of 20 players, only 5 had international competition experience.  

“Battle” also meant obstacles and difficulties we faced as individuals. As the Captain Maldita, my “battle” meant balancing my work, obligations and activities with training and matches of the Malditas.  It meant getting through injuries and winning against dengue fever three weeks before competition. It meant always trying to lead by example, earning the respect of my coaches and teammates and believing in the squad when people doubted us. It meant giving encouraging words when we were all dead tired in drills and humbly accepting defeat when things didn’t go as planned.  I’m sure that each Maldita has her own story of “battles” that they face each day on and off the football pitch. 
“Bleed”, on the other hand, described the process we went through as a Maldita. Our coach, Ernie Nierras, would always tell us to “bleed” in training. He never failed to push us to our physical (and maybe emotional and mental) breaking point teaching us to survive and to toughen up each day. He would ask us “How much do you want it?” and yet he didn’t want us to tell him our answer but to show him our answer. Of all the things we did, one training session will always be remembered. It was when he introduced to us “Hard, Harder, Hardest, and PAIN”.  In all my years with the national team, never have I experienced such training session that made me “bleed” physically, emotionally and mentally.  

It felt like one week of training session compressed into three hours. And just when we thought we were done with training with our legs as numb and heavy as logs, he gave us ice cream and made us run seven laps in fourteen minutes. It squeezed out every bit of muscle strength and tested our mental toughness till the very end. Looking back, surviving that training session taught us to never give up till the final whistle, which we showed when we competed in Laos, scoring goals in the final minutes. 

“Battle and Bleed” was the battle cry of the Malditas. Every time it is mentioned, together with “Pilipinas, Laban”, I would feel a burst of pride and adrenaline knowing that it is time to battle.  Through all our difficult training sessions, we would always whine and complain and yet we would continue to do it, waking up each day anxiously waiting for the next killer drill. It would give me a sense of courage because I knew that with any obstacle or challenge I had to face, I always heard encouraging words from my teammates and coaches.  I knew that they would never let me give up or go through my struggle alone.

The year 2011 was the year when interest in football was revived in the Philippines.  It was the year that saw the “new beginning” of women’s football in the Philippines. It was the year that allowed me to once again suit up for the national squad as a Maldita, proudly representing the Philippines, and playing the beautiful game.  

It allowed me to continue to believe in the values that sport teaches us: Hard Work, Determination, Discipline, Team Work, and Sacrifice. It gave me the opportunity to gain a whole new bunch of sisters who shared the same passion as I do for the game of football. But most importantly, 2011 taught me to believe in myself, in a set of individuals with different experiences, in the MALDITAS that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, be it on the football pitch or in LIFE, as long as we “BATTLE AND BLEED, Together!”. MMB

[This article was originally published on January 6, 2012. Photo by Joan Pauline Lapid]

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