19 May Development, elite competition key for U17 women’s teams in AFC tourney
The head coaches took part in a pre-tournament press conference at the GFA Lanai, attended by members of the local media.
Story below written by Jason Cunliffe for the Guam Daily Post:
Guam’s U17 girls national football team will host its first Asian Cup qualifier when the girls take on the Philippines in match 1 of Group G.
Fans are encouraged to come out Saturday to support Guam’s young national soccer team for the 7 p.m. kickoff. The matches are being hosted at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Harmon.
These will be the first international matches hosted at night under the lights. GFA has recently installed new FIFA-approved LED lights, along with brand-new turf.
The match will be history in the making in a number of ways and the more home support the Guam girls can get, the better.
The Philippines, who are the group favorites, are coached by Australian Alen Stajcic.
The country’s women’s program has been on an upward trajectory, with the Philippines senior women’s team recently qualifying for this summer’s Women’s World Cup being co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
The success of the full team has led to a more professional culture within the organization, highlighted by the U17 national team’s preparation for the matches.
During Friday’s press conference, all the coaches were asked how they would account for the weather on Guam.
Stajcic said his team “have been here for 8 to 10 days already, trying to adjust to the local environment and the weather.”
Having the ability to arrive so far ahead of a match day is not something many of the smaller football associations can afford, and it’s one variable that can potentially give his team a boost.
Guam’s players, coached by Kimberly Sherman, are a young team looking to use this experience as an opportunity to measure themselves against some quality opposition as part of their overall national team pathway development process.
The third participating country is Lebanon, which has the good fortune of getting the bye, as they had to travel more than 22 hours to get to Guam.
With Asia being so expansive, the potential for long, extensive travel times is something these teams have to account for when competing at regional events.
Lebanon’s head coach, Sahar Dbouk, mentioned that this is actually the biggest issue her team faces right now.
“First of all, we’ve had a long flight, so we are trying to adapt to the time difference. That’s the hardest part for us right now, for the girls, who only want to sleep,” she said.
No doubt their extra two days before their first match of the group will be helpful for their recovery from the travel.
Guam, while young, is excited to give its best in front of the home fans.
This will be the first time many of the girls are competing in an official AFC competition and Sherman, during the press conference, reiterated her team’s objectives.
While winning is always the goal, Sherman said, there is a bigger picture in play for these girls and the women’s national team program, in general, and this is a big step in the right direction for all of the above.
Sherman underscored how important these types of games are for the development of Guam’s teams.
“We don’t get enough exposure to this caliber of international competition and while we do the best we can, playing these games are the real test to see how far along we’ve come and also how much more work we have to do. We are excited for the opportunities these matches will provide our girls and we know it’s only upward from here,” she said.
The next game for team Guam will be on Monday, April 24, against Lebanon, with the final game between Lebanon and the Philippines being played on Wednesday, April 26. All matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. kickoff at the GFA National Training Center in Harmon.