Proud moment
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - December 12, 2007 - 12:00am

There was a lump in my throat when broadcaster Ed Picson, speaking on stage, called on the recipient of the outstanding women’s football award during the gala dinner celebration of the sport’s centennial in the country at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel last Friday night.

Ed and I partnered as co-emcees of the program. When it was time for the women’s football award, Ed shielded me from croaking behind the microphone. I watched proudly as my wife, Menchu, walked up to receive the award from FIFA president Joseph Blatter and PFF president Mari Martinez. With Menchu were her teammates Mary Ann Gomez, Cuquita Genato-Jordana, Tonette Tongoy-Fritzsche, Joy Crisostomo-Allado, Tess Xerez Burgos-Loanzon, Vicky Genato-Picornell and Maria Nimfa Fallarme-Ronson.

Photographers had a field day snapping pictures of the ladies who hardly looked like football players in their evening outfits. Blatter raised his thumb as he posed for pictures and cheerfully autographed the souvenir rubber footballs that the ladies got from PFF workhorse Ed Magallona.

Menchu was the prime organizer of the first ladies football match ever to be played here. The date was Sept. 2, 1973 and the venue was the Rizal Memorial football field. A ladies match was in a triplebill that was a fund-raiser for the Philippine youth team known as Kasibulan. The first match pitted a Filipino-Chinese selection against a Thai squad. The second match featured the ladies – Women’s Lib A coached by Mike Crame versus Women’s Lib B coached by Chiquiting Gutierrez. And the main event saw Kasibulan take on a visiting British Navy team.

National coach Juan Cutillas supervised the training of both ladies teams which went through several practices at the Rizal Memorial and La Salle Greenhills football fields. National players Ponti Broce and Pepito Genato served as assistant trainers.

As it turned out, Women’s Lib A won, 3-0, on goals by Menchu, her sister Vicky and cousin Cuquita – all of them Genatos. 

In March 1974, Menchu again organized a ladies football match to inaugurate the Sebastian Ugarte football field in Makati. Menchu and teammate Maria Nimfa scored goals in the game.

Cristy Ramos later became the moving spirit of ladies football and launched the first-ever league in the early 1980s. Today, Cristy is the only Filipina attached to FIFA as a traveling supervisor of several ladies events.

By the way, there are two Filipinos – Inaki Alvarez and David Borja – working for FIFA based in the Zurich headquarters. And three Filipinos – Miguel David, Nonoy Carpio and Edna Ponanes-Carpio – are stationed in Malaysia working for the Asian Football Confederation which was founded in Manila in 1954.

When centennial committee chair Cathy Rivilla informed Menchu of the award a week before the rites, she immediately contacted as many of her teammates as she could. Menchu didn’t want the honor for herself. She wanted to share it with her co-pioneers. 

Tonette, a real estate broker who previously lived in Durban, South Africa, flew in from Cebu. Maria Nimfa, who is based in Hong Kong as the Associated Press regional marketing head, went straight from the NAIA to Sofitel. Joy recently moved back to Manila from Los Angeles for good with husband Caloy and came, too. She is better known as the mother of Talk ’N’ Text pro cager Don Allado. An events organizer and manager of the band Onda Latina, Mary Ann made time in her busy schedule to attend the gala dinner. Tess, vice president for premier banking of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, was also present. Vicky, who lived over 10 years in Jakarta with her husband Peter and children Maricar and Pedrito after working for Philippine Airlines, came with cousin Cuquita, daughter of former Olympic basketball player Tony Genato.

Pioneer ladies footballers who couldn’t make it (either because of previous commitments or they couldn’t be contacted) were Philippine Airlines purser Gina Medina, Ginny Roces-de Guzman, Pinky and Jojie Manzano, Nini and Dodie Cabarrus, Marianne Vicente, Georgie McClure, Sylvia Iniguez, Olivia Gutierrez, Moy Agudo, Patty Massab, Karen Velayo, Karen Yvanovich, Mila del Prado, Emma Infante (who was in Thailand for the Southeast Asian Games as a dancesport official), Mary Price, Mariles Jodana-Caballero, Niña Romualdez, Rosanna and Tonette Olondriz, Carmen Gonzalez, Amy Locsin, Charrie Mijares and Gina Goni.

My heart swelled with pride as Menchu raised the plaque of recognition she received on stage as her teammates shared the honor on stage. That’s my wife, I told myself, as Ed made up for my silence, understanding the emotion of the moment.

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