THE gritty Baguio Cinderellas will defend their ladies open title Sunday in the 11th Alaska Cup at the posh Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa in a bid to maintain their 16-year dominance in the sport.
They snatched the crown in a breeze this time last year despite traveling straight to the venue and playing without sleep due to lack of funds for billeting.
This time, however, the squad left early for the much-needed rest, given the stronger field that is expected to include teams from Korea, Japan and Guam in the seven-a-side blitz competition.
From Alabang, the girls will shift to Olongapo on Nov. 24-25 to again defend their nth crown in the Kicksand Beach Tournament they last ruled last April.
Former national stand-out Annaliza Umoc-Cabanilla and playing coach Richelle Tabisula, both with the original team formed by sportsman Manny Javellana in the 1980s, will lead the twin campaigns.
A combination of youth and experience, the line-up will be completed by second-generation recruits Romadallana Llanea, Judith Doctolero, Melody Buccahan, Maggie Pakipac, Marissa Manaday, Regine Formaran and newcomers Shiela Tabangcura, Katie Sutherland, Jovelyn Velasco and Carol Baguitan.
So-called for having to scrounge support to be able to compete, the Cinderellas leaned anew on the city government and the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) to be able to defend the twin crowns.
Acting Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. already directed City Sports coordinator Edison Villafuerte to work out anew the city's sponsorship of the team which had ruled four national cups and numerous invitational titles.
Beneco, which had teamed up with the city in supporting the multi-titled team in previous outings, has committed the services of a back-up vehicle for the two tournaments.
The team initially gained national prominence in the early 1990s for topping the YKL-Fuji National Cup in Quezon City after saving their school stipends to pay for a jeep transport.
Heartened by the initial victory, the girls went on to win the 1991 and 1993 Baguio National Invitational and the 1993 Philippine Ladies Football Association Cup. Lack of funds prevented them from defending the Philfa Cup in Davao in 1994.
With support from businessman Dan David who drove for them, the girls recaptured the Philfa Cup in Sta. Cruz, Laguna in 1995 with a 1-0 overtime victory over defending champion Davao.
The winning goal came on the 13th minutes of overtime on a Friday the 13th, from 16-year old Roberta Sandejas whom the team recruited to complete the 11-memberline-up for the crucial final game.
The comely girl, who went on to join the varsity team of La Salle, was rendered blind when somebody threw acid on her face several years ago. Informed of the tragic incident, the Cinderellas sold old newspapers and bottles, raising over P20,000 which they handed over to the girls' to support her recovery. (Ramon Dacawi - Sun Star)