Bleed for country

By: Nikki Regalado - twitter: @nikkiregalado

Thu. Mar. 22, 2012

Bleed for country
PHILIPPINES -- My day usually started with a 5 am LRT or MRT ride from España to the University of Makati (UMAK) thrice a week, sometimes even daily. Half asleep, I would often reflect on why I wanted to be part of the Malditas. 

Tears would actually accompany the one kilometre walk from EDSA to UMAK. It even tested my commitment, but it never waivered my resolve to be a Maldita.  Several of the experiences highlighted our preparation for the annual AFF women's Championship. I will never forget the training sessions, which lasted 2-3 hours full of endurance, sprinting etc. Our coach even introduced us to a new concept of increasing intensity during training. We called it, Hard, Harder, Hardest…then PAIN! Before pain we were usually treated to something sweet and cold, like ice cream. It was like our last meal, before the main event. 

Later I found out that our coach gave us ice cream, to give us sugar for energy, and a little protein with our Gatorade. It made us absorb the electrolites faster. Whatever purpose it served? I hated ice cream for the next few months, because I knew that PAIN came after ice cream! How ironic?  But it was a worthwhile experience for me. 

I remember my first out of town tournament with the Malditas in Bacolod in Philippine National Game . We played against Bacolod, Iloilo and the Philippine U-19 team. This was our  2nd championship trophy because before the PNG (Philippine National game), we also participated in the 1st Women's Summer League (Rexona Cup), which was my first tournament and first championship trophy with the Malditas.
 
During the PNG we won the football tournament, and placed 2nd in the Futsal competition. Due to lack of competitive games, our coach arranged games against men's teams. I thought he was crazy for making us play against men. Well, I was soon going to find out that this was just the beginning of his craziness so to speak. 

I will never forget when we joined the “Ang Liga” . The  “Ang Liga” is an annual tournament composed of different college men's teams including UST, ADMU, UP, FEU, San Beda Mendiola, and College of Saint Benilde.  It was a wild and great experience for me to play against men’s teams. At first I found it difficult to adjust to the playing style of the men. It was really hard to play against them because their movements were so fast and furious. Their hormone boosted energy made them ran ten times faster than me, which was very frustrating in the beginning. I learned from it though.  

I learned that I can keep up with them. I learned that I can compete with them. And sometimes, I even played better than them. Now I was starting to understand this craziness. It was like destroying my self confidence in the beginning, so that I can build a stronger me! After a few games, I was even looking forward to the craziness. I never realised until recently that we never played a women's team after the PNG. Our coach would always tell us that he did not care what the score was. What he wanted to see was our intention and our intensity. 

In the end our intention was to beat the men, and our intensity was so high. It was unavoidable that physical contact meant getting palmed on my chest from time to time, but also executing our by-line…. MALDITAS..WE KICK BALLS! I am sure some of the guys we played with will never forget my right foot!

The AFF was my first experience in international competition, and international travel. I never played football on foreign soil, until I became part of the Malditas. It was held in Vientiane, Laos last October 16-22. I had a chance to visit 2 countries in one trip. Although briefly, we landed in Bangkok, Thailand, then flew to Udon Thani Thailand, before crossing the border into Laos. We actually crossed the Mekong river from Thailand to Laos. Now I have a better appreciation of my History class in UST. It was a very different feeling, a feeling that I only felt when I was there playing. It was like winning the lotto. 

My Malditas 2011 experience was exceptional. We did not win the AFF but the experience made me a winner. The lessons I learned were priceless. I would never trade them for anything. Well not just anything. I would like to continue my journey as a Maldita. Since coming back from Laos, I learned what it meant to be a Filipina. Our National Anthem is not as boring as people think. It made me cry, every time they played it before our games. I felt my heart beat with pride.

I did not understand what being a Maldita meant when I first tried out for the team. Our battle cry… “PILIPINAS LABAN, and BATTLE and BLEED”, did not mean much in day one. Now I have a better appreciation, and sense of sisterhood with the Malditas.

Although I was introduced to the sport only in high school, being a former basketball player made me appreciate football even more. I know our male counter parts, the Azkals will always be more popular than us. It does not mean we cannot lead the way for them. Being a Maldita for me is when you give your all, willing to get hurt, willing to sacrifice, and ''battling'' through all the challenges we face as being part of the Philippine Women’s National Team.  Willing to ''bleed'' for your country. 

Our coach would always tell us to ''bleed'' in practice. I always thought that I had to slide for every ball, and be a physical player. Now I know what he meant. It meant going past your own physical, mental, and physchological limitations. It meant working together as a team. Improving my self-worth through sacrifice and due diligence. It meant no more wasteful tears. No tears of doubt or self pity, like the tears I wasted during my early morning trips to practice, but tears of pride and joy. 

Now I can’t wait to train with the Malditas. I can’t wait to ''battle'' and bleed'' with my sisters on our new training field. What was once a question of doubt, is now tattooed in my heart, and echos in my ear as the ''Lupang Hinirang''. There is no sense in quitting anymore. I do not see challenges as hurdles. I see them as another men's team we need to play against. Fear does not exist in my vocabulary. Only anticipation of once again dawning the colours of flag and country.
 
On Sept 2012 we will be participating in the 2012 AFF Women’s Championships in Vietnam. Last year I was a rookie, caught up in all the hype and emotions of my first international cap for the Malditas. Now, I am a veteran. One of the senior Malditas, willing to show the way to our up and coming teammates. I only have one advice for them, two actually. The first is don’t smile when coach Ernie gives you ice cream. The second is……. ''Battle and Bleed'' Maladitas. BATTLE and BLEED to the very end!

So what does Maldita really mean to me? It defines me as a person. It means lacing up my boots with pride. Not being scared on the field of battle, because I know my sisters are with me. It means staring the opponent straight in her or his eyes and saying… “Do me your best, because I will do you mine!”. I am Maldita, and I DO NOT QUIT! NR

[This article was originally published on January 7, 2012. Photo by Joan Pauline Lapid]

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