Netball spark lit in the Philippines

Many Filipinos worship boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and most of them live and breathe basketball.

Football is on a steady rise, as the Philippines men's team continue to improve in the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup, ASEAN's biggest prize in the game.

Netball, though, barely registers in the Philippines.

In fact, before December last year, they had no national team to speak of.

Then Netball Singapore stepped up, with several visits by officials to help set up a national team and also provide funding.

The Philippines netball team were soon formed, with players plucked from various women's basketball teams in the country's colleges and institutions, and they are now one of six participating sides in the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, with Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and hosts Singapore.

"Back then, there was a lack of interest. But that wasn't all. There wasn't a system in place and we had to build from scratch," said Fransien Howarth, the national team's 29-year-old head coach, who hails from England.

"Netball's just so new to the Philippines. There are plenty of people who haven't heard of it, let alone watched a game.

"Just look at the national team. We took in girls from basketball and volleyball teams to form a team.

"We have to get more people involved in it, really.

"Get it introduced in schools and sports clubs. That's how we help the sport progress.


"And it's been going well, and the authorities have been supporting us whenever and however they can, so that's a good sign."

The newly formed team, nicknamed the "Siklab Pilipinas", made their SEA Games debut on Sunday in a 62-22 loss against Thailand.

Their lack of experience was severely exposed when they were hammered 112-11 by Malaysia on Monday, before going down 56-31 to Myanmar yesterday.

But Howarth is upbeat.

"We were under no illusions about the results. We knew we were going to lose," she said.

"But, even if it's by a 10-point or 100-point margin, I'm still proud of these girls.

"It's all about the emotions that they show while playing. The heavy defeat was nowhere near enough to dampen the team's spirits. They just kept playing, and that's what makes me proud."

Former volleyball player and current defender, Michelle Datuin, said: "Netball is on the rise in the Philippines. It will happen soon enough.

"I'm just really happy to be here, and enjoy myself.

"Hopefully, in years to come, our people will recognise netball as much as they do basketball and boxing."

This article was first published on June 03, 2015.
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