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Thailand opened the door for South-east Asian nations at the last Women’s World Cup in Canada, proving that the gap between the traditional elite and rest is starting to narrow. And Benitez says that success for the national team would provide huge spinoffs for the game.
“It (success) is very important because we have seen the success of the men’s national team has brought attention to football,” she said. “Development among the youth has grown and that has helped lift the standard in Philippines football.
“So the same thing can happen in women’s football. The general interest is there. We need more matches and that has now started with the new national league. It is important that the national team does well, as it provides an outlet for young girls and an opportunity to dream of representing the national team.”
The signs among the youngest age groups are encouraging. Last year the Philippines finished second in the AFC U-14 Championship – where Benitez was the assistant coach – achieving a new high for the nation at that level.
“The grassroots of women’s football here is very successful,” Benitez said. “The players from our first U-14 team are now in the older teams, and you can see already the level of quality improve.
“Individually, our players are very technical now. Tactically also the players are smarter now. It is so exciting for me to see the growth of women’s football.”