Philippine futsal stories: Girls from Pontevedra, Negros Occidental put their town on the map
Angel Egay, Melona Rafil and Sandy Matunding have not only represented their town but also Negros Occidental in national futsal competition while giving a very good account of themselves.

Philippine futsal stories: Girls from Pontevedra, Negros Occidental put their town on the map

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - November 30, 2020 - 2:54pm

MANILA, Philippines – Pontevedra in Negros Occidental is a quiet town by the Panay Gulf with a population of just a little over 50,000 people.

Aside from the fishing and agricultural industries that are the main sources of livelihood, Pontevedra is known for its Handurayo Festival (or the Festival of Dances) and former actress Rio Diaz who served as mayor from 1998-2004 until her untimely passing.

Now, three young girls are helping put this seaside town back on the map — this time for futsal.

Angel Egay, Melona Rafil and Sandy Matunding have not only represented their town but also Negros Occidental in national futsal competition while giving a very good account of themselves.

They participated in the 2018 Allianz National Youth Futsal Invitational, where they were exposed to a much higher level of competition. And yet, despite the inexperience, they won the championship that year showing their skill and latent potential. Rafil was awarded Best Goalkeeper of the tournament, and was subsequently invited to attend a training camp organized by Allianz in Bangkok, Thailand. The following year, the girls represented Region 6 (Western Visayas) for futsal in the 2019 Palarong Pambansa. Later in 2019, Pontevedra again won the Visayas Regional Championship for the Allianz futsal tournament, proving that 2018 was no fluke.

That gained the attention of national futsal officials, who had been scouting the girls since they burst on to the scene in 2018, and improved with each tournament.

Today, the three girls are part of futsal scholarship program under the auspices of the Moran Foundation, the MVP Sports Foundation, the Inspire-Raya High School for Sports, and the Philippine Football Federation with its new technical head, Dutch legend Vic Hermans.  The program aims to develop young talented futsal girls into potential national team futsal players.

“Nakaka-excite,” exclaimed Rafil. “Kasi meron taong tulad niya na mag-coach sa amin at sa pambansang programa ng futsal.”

While football is popular in Negros, futsal isn’t. It took the prodding of Pastor Julius N. Villaranda and Coach Reggie F. Miraflor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Pontevedra to put the futsal program in place with the help of the Negros Occidental Football Association (NOFA).

“I wanted to challenge our church to contribute to the community,” bared Pastor Julius. “We wanted to host our own football league.”

“We didn’t have much,” the pastor added with a smile. “We had to cut the grass with machetes so we could have a pitch and then for our goal posts, we had kawayan poles held by duct tape.”

NOFA provided the coaches’ education and training beginning a grassroots program. When Hermans was in the country for a futsal assessment in 2019, the association even hosted a training for their coaches that included Miraflor with Hermans as the instructor.

Now, all they had to do was sell it to the girls.

“Pinilit lang ako,” sheepishly admitted Egay of her origins with the sport. “… hangga’t nagustuhan ko na yung futsal. Ngayon… ayoko na umalis.”

Rafil herself was into volleyball. When she was introduced to futsal, she actually hated it. But she kept at it and now loves the sport so much.

The game has not only boosted the girls’ self-esteem, but has given them a shot at education at the Raya-Inspire Academy to further their training.

“Nagpapasaya sa akin ang futsal,” said Egay. “Marami ako nakilala na friends at kung saan saan kami nakakapunta.”

“Kahit mahirap kami (Pastor’s Julius’ church chipped in with the initial expenses), sinusoportahan ako ng pamilya ko sa pangarap ko.”

As for working with Hermans, Egay spoke for the trio. “Excited kami. It’s an honor.”

“We never thought that our girls would achieve this,” summed up Pastor Julius. “They come from very humble backgrounds as children of farmers and fisher folk. Through encouragement and persistence, and their coaches training them, this is where they are now.”

The program has certainly come a long way from its simple beginnings in 2017 with futsal thriving in this quiet town by the sea.

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