A National Athlete and her Happy Feet
Her talk was about dancing and football — not exactly my interests — but she talked with so much enthusiasm that I was glued to her every word. She kept me and her audience captive all throughout the talk. Her passion on her chosen crafts was evident in the excitement in her voice and the glow in her eyes.
I remember telling myself, “Wow! I want to talk about my interests with so much passion, just like her.”
She is Marielle Benitez.
I guess you’re familiar with James Younghusband and Phil Younghusband of Azkals, right? Azkals is the Philippine Men’s National Football Team. The Philippine Women’s National Football Team is Malditas, wherein Marielle Benitez is currently the team captain.
We’re privileged to have Marielle Benitez with us here in Seminar Philippines. When I asked her whether she could share her story with us, she said YES! 🙂
SHA: Hi Marielle. Thanks for accommodating this interview.
When I tried to google your name, one word was always present — football. Many people know you as an outstanding football player and the team captain of Malditas. Can you further introduce yourself to us?
MARIELLE: Hi Sha! Thanks for this opportunity to share my story.
Yes, I’ve been playing football since my high school days at Paref Woodrose. I graduated from De La Salle University with a double degree in Psychology and Marketing Management and played for the school in the UAAP., winning the MVP three times. I’m currently the Athletic director of Philippine Women’s University, where I am in my last year of graduate school majoring in Education Management.
I am currently the Team Captain of the “Malditas” the Philippine National Women’s Football Team. I have been a member of the Philippine Team since 2003 and the captain since 2005.
I work as TV host and sports analyst for Balls Channel and Abs-Cbn Sports. At the same time, I’m a performing artist for the Bayanihan, the national dance company of the Philippines, which is a great honor, since I’m able to perform all over the world showcasing the best of Philippine culture.
SHA: Wow! That’s a lot to take in. Let’s talk about football first.
How did you develop your interest in football? What does it take to be a football player and the team captain of Malditas?
MARIELLE: Well, growing up, I’ve always been very athletic and competitive. I’ve tried all kinds of sports. So, when Paref Woodrose opened a football club, my friends and I thought it would be fun to join and a good excuse so we could hangout after class. When I started playing football, it was all about fun. Hanging out with friends, running and kicking the ball around.
To be a football player, you need to be passionate about the sport. You need discipline, perseverance and hard work. I think as team captain of the Malditas, I need to be a trusted leader. I need to be able to step up and be a role model to my teammates and at the same time have my coach believe in me.
SHA: Can you tell us more about Malditas?
MARIELLE: The Malditas is the monicker for the National Women’s Football Team. The name came about in 2005 during the South East Asian Games in the Philippines. Our manager, Ernie Nierras, gave the name to the team because he believed that the 2005 batch of players were “Malditas”, on and off the pitch… Girls who were feisty or “palaban” and would never back down from challenges, even when we played against men’s teams.
SHA: What were the challenges as well as the perks of being part of Malditas?
MARIELLE: Being a member of the national team requires a lot of discipline, sacrifice and commitment. Its not easy waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and train for 2-3 hours then go to work or school and train again in the late afternoon or early evenings, then do it all over the next day. You learn to survive aches and pains as if it’s a normal feeling especially when you are preparing for tournaments.
You need to be passionate about football to be able to endure all the training. At the same time, being a member of the Malditas has a lot of perks. One is that, not everyone has the privilege and honor to represent the country in international competitions, in the sport that you love. The best feeling is when you come out of the dug out, wearing your national team jersey, with the Philippine flag on your chest and you sing the national anthem just before you start your match. It’s such an adrenaline rush that you just feel so proud being a Filipino and you want to do everything to win for the Philippines.
SHA: What tournaments have you joined?
MARIELLE: Tournaments? Well, we are preparing for the AFF Women’s Championships in Vietnam, which will be held on September 11-22, 2012. The team also competes in the Asian Women’s Championships and the South East Asian Games.
SHA: Wow! Good luck! We’ll pray for your games.
Would you recommend football as a sport?
MARIELLE: Thanks, Sha! Yes, I would definitely recommend football as a sport. I think that the person that I am today has been greatly influenced by my playing football. It’s a competitive sport that teaches you teamwork, discipline, sacrifice, perseverance and the will to overcome any adversity.
SHA: You’re also part of Bayanihan dance company. Can you tell us more about Bayanihan and what you do?
MARIELLE: Yes, I’m fortunate to be part of the Bayanihan, the National Dance Company of the Philippines. I’ve been a member of the Bayanihan since 2004. We perform traditional dances. We showcase the best of Philippine culture through music and dance. Its such an honor to be with the Bayanihan because we get to travel around the world, performing in world class theaters and winning in international competitions.
Well, at first, as an athlete, it was very awkward learning the basics of folk dance. I did enjoy my time at rehearsals because of my co-artists. Eventually, I learned to love dancing. The irony of it all was that my first international tour was to the 2004 Athens Olympics representing the Philippines at the cultural Olympiad. I mean, every athletes’ dream is to be at the Olympics and I was there, except I had my hair up in a bun with make up on as a Bayanihan performing artist.
SHA: How do you balance this seemingly-tough sport football and dancing? How do you juggle your time between Malditas and Bayanihan?
MARIELLE: I always say that Bayanihan and football are different yet similar in so many ways. They are different because one needs to be soft and graceful while the other allows me to be rough and rugged. Yet, similar in many ways as they both allow me to represent the Philippines. As the national dance company and the national football team of the country, both require sacrifice, discipline, teamwork and a lot of hard work. Sometimes, dancing is even tougher than football just because rehearsals can take 6 hours while football will at most be 3 hours. Bayanihan and football has taught me to work under pressure and has given me the confidence I need to be able to perform at my very best whether on stage or on the football pitch.
I have been fortunate that I’m able to balance my time with Bayanihan and the Malditas. Training with the Malditas is usually early morning, 6-8am while Bayanihan rehearsals or performances are in the evening. However, there are times when I would prioritize and focus on one because of the strenuous preparation for either a tournament or a performance. I’m very fortunate that my coaches and Bayanihan directors have been very understanding and supportive with the things that I do.
SHA: How have Bayanihan and Malditas shaped you and the people around you?
MARIELLE: My experiences with the Bayanihan and the Malditas have made me the person that I am today. Being in sports has allowed me to learn the values of hard work, discipline, perseverance, sacrifice and teamwork. At an early age, football has allowed me to experience the emotional rollercoaster that one goes through in life but in such a short time span, the winning and the losing, the heart aches of injuries and the successful comebacks. It’s the same with Bayanihan.
I learned to work under pressure. I get to meet and talk to people from all walks of life, teaching and dancing with the street children, performing for the ambassadors, presidents and royalty.
SHA: Aside from Bayanihan and Malditas, what else keeps you busy?
MARIELLE: Apart from performing with the Bayanihan and playing football for the Malditas, I try to balance my time as the Athletic director for Philippine Women’s University, as TV host and football analyst for Abs-cbn Balls Channel, and as Camp for Champs head. When schedule permits, I try to learn new things like playing ultimate Frisbee, learning bread and pastry making and all kinds of random things.
SHA: You’ve excelled both in dancing and in football. What advice can you give us who also want to excel in our respective interests?
MARIELLE: In everything that you do, you need to have the passion for it. Through all the obstacles, it was my love for football and my love for dancing that allowed me to keep giving my best. I guess there is no shortcut for success. Everyday, you need to strive to get better, work hard to reach your goals and enjoy every moment of your life.
***For me, it really is just about enjoying the things that I do and trying to live my life to the fullest, and in the process, I’ve been fortunate to be able to make a difference in the lives of people by sharing with them my experiences. I would always say that in a couple of years, people won’t remember my Most Valuable Player award, Top Scorer or even my Athlete of the Year award. They will not remember how many championships I’ve won or how many world dance festivals I’ve participated in, and won. Not even how many sold out performances I was in. They won’t remember those. Football and Dance are just vehicles that are part of my life.
At the end of this journey, what is important would be the lessons and the values that I get from them, and the person that I have become because of them.
I could only imagine how fun it must be to pursue what you love doing the most and bring pride to the country. Indeed, to succeed in our chosen craft, we need to be passionate about it. And echoing Marielle, we also need discipline, perseverance and hard work.
What are you passionate about? Are you putting in the effort and time to develop your passion and bless the world through it? Please share us your story in the comments.
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Photos courtesy of Marielle Benitez
Text by Sha Nacino. Copyright © 2012 All rights reserved.
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Sha Nacino, Inspirational Speaker and Prolific Author
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She’s amazing. She plays football and dance. She is so flexible, not just that but so much more. I’m kinda like her now. I am hoping to see her in person, ask some question about her career and other stuff.