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Sports feature: Helping hands bring indoor football to jail

Futsal or indoor football may yet become a regular feature of prison reform here, thanks to support from expatriates and the passion of the Cinderellas, Baguio’s multi-titled women’s soccer team, to share a sports event they had dominated for over 20 years now.
A woman inmate last year pleaded to have someone introduce the court version of the world’s most popular sport as a digression from the regular basketball games played by inmates and guards on the city jail quadrangle.
The Cinderellas, rightfully the original Askals for having to scrounge for funds to be able to compete, responded in full force two Sundays back through an arrangement with jail warden, Chief Insp. Severino Khita.
They had with them balls and orange markers brought in last November by former members of Baguio’s men side who have since scattered abroad. Before revisiting home, expatriates collected equipment from fellowFilipinos in Canada and the United States of America.
Former goalie Eduardo Dait and teammate Albert Martin, both based in Vancouver, Canada, and Jimmy Martin, now in the United States, turned over the balls and gear to the Cinderellas in an evening get-together last November here.
With them were teammates Sammy Torres, Davis Siao, Fed Solomon, Jhun Sadicon, Larry Garcia and Cesar Eslao and younger generation players Aris Bocalan, Bakhshish, Jerry Tabisula, Gary Dait and Jurgen Gatchalian.
Pioneer fullback Virgie Tibaldo-Bungay, as vice-president of the Baguio Football Association, received the imported equipment in the company of fellow original Cinderellas Annaliza Umoc-Cabanilla, Evangeline Gigan, Grace Carrera, Richelle Tabisula and second and third generation recruits.
Earlier, the Cinderellas set in tarpaulin the following names of those who filled up the balikbayan boxes brought in by Albert and Eduardo: Marcus and Niko-Levi Murray, Avelina Gonzales, Dan Gonzales, Tito and Elsa Gonzales, Tiana Pangalim, Boyet and Cora, Sisay Belcha, Paulina Dait, JB and Vince Dait, Joey Eisma, Paulo and Mark Dait, Ferdie Santos, Fernando Gacayan Rick Biasura, Al Magante, Charity Dacutan, Aflanton Rezal, Amira Negadar, Camelo Resente and Nita Lipas.
The banner also paid tribute to Manny Javellana, the dyed-in-the-wool football coach who recruited and trained the pioneer Cinderellas out of high school and college students in the 1980s.
Javellana, now based in Bacolod, visited last November to watch with Albert and Eduardo a goodwill match between the Cinderellas and a selection from the Benguet State University at the Brent School grounds.
In a country of midgets fallen heads over basketball, Javellana believed he could transform a women’s squad into the country’s best, even as he left home for Bacolod when he knew they were ready.
In the summer of 1990, girls pooled their stipends and hired a jeepney for the national women’s championship played on week-ends in Quezon City.
“At lemon-time, we would quench our thirst with tap water while our rivals gulped energy drink; but we kept on winning,” recalled striker Monique Jacinto.
At the end of summer, the girls rode the jeepney home with their first national title. They took the Baguio National Invitational plum the following year and ruled the 1993 and 1995 editions of the National Ladies Football Cup.
For over two decades now, Cinderellas have captured all kinds of titles: the regular 11-aside, seven-a-side, beach football and, most recently, the Mayor Domogan-Congressman Vergara Cup sponsored by football promoters Alex and Annabelle Bangsoy of Goshenland.
Virgie said their introduction of futsal in the city jail is in celebration of coach Javellana’s sacrifices and belief in the universality of football.
“It’s also to honor the generosity of our patrons and donors over the years, the latest of whom are the expatriates who knocked on doors for the balls and gear that we’re using in jail,” she said.
As the initial training pushed on, the male inmates found themselves roaring over the clumsiness of their female counterparts. Soon, it will be the women’s turn to rib as men’s coach Aris Bocalan leads his own squad to training the male prisoners. – Ramon Dacawi.

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