Guam’s ‘brave women’ look to conquer new horizons
Asia’s road to Australia & New Zealand 2023 resumes this week
Guam among seven nations looking to keep their qualification dream alive
The small Micronesian nation is renowned for its distinctive indigenous culture
The preliminary rounds of Asian qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ recommences this week with the seven competing teams underlining the diversity of the globe’s largest continent. Nowhere will that variety be more on display than in Kyrgyz Republic capital Bishkek where Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Guam and Lebanon will joust for one of two remaining spots at January’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The other group will see hosts Bahrain and Laos chase maiden passage to the elite stage, along with one-time continental elite Chinese Taipei. One of the lesser known nations featuring this week is Guam. An unincorporated territory of the USA, Guam is one of FIFA’s most remote member associations. The only member association of world’s football’s governing body from Micronesia - they are located in the western Pacific Ocean partway between the Philippines and Hawaii - Guam also bring a unique cultural perspective. The indigenous inhabitants of Guam, the Chamorro, are renowned for their resilience and fortitude, and national coach Ross Awa hopes to tap into those attributes as his side chase fresh highs over the coming week.
The national team are known as the Masakada, which translates as “brave women”. “The Masakada are heavily driven by their passion for the game, the culture in the team that has been built throughout the years, and leaving a legacy for future footballers to aspire to represent Guam,” Awa told FIFA.com. “Although the team may face obstacles throughout the campaign, they will rise to the occasion by adapting and working together to identify solutions to move forward. [The players] are all brave women and are ready to represent the Chamorro people of Guam.”
All of Guam’s national teams recite the ‘Inifresi’ before training and matches, which is a pledge in Chamorro to uphold the culture, beliefs and traditions of the island-nation. The Chamorro spirit was exemplified in 2015 when Guam defeated India in a 2018 FIFA World Cup™ qualifier – one of world football’s great upsets in terms of population disparity. Awa is now hopeful of achieving a new high for his side which features several players with experience of playing on the US mainland. “I have very high aspirations for this team and am optimistic that we will get the results,” said Awa. “We have a squad with a great deal of depth who are receptive to learn and eager to display a proactive style of football in this tournament. It will be challenging as each team in our group will be looking to get points to advance to the final round of the tournament. “Guam has a lot of potential to grow in the women’s game, we are making strides to improve daily to be better than we were yesterday, a mindset that was instilled within our women’s program. The players are in a positive learning environment that enables them to develop themselves as a person as well.”
The Guamanians participated in four previous editions of the Women’s Asian Cup around the turn of the century, but never did so via a qualification process. Winning passage on merit alongside seven other qualifiers would mark a new high. Awa believes there is significant scope to grow the game for female footballers in Guam. “The desire to play professionally is a dream for our female athletes,” he said. “We have players that are capable of playing at a higher level, but are not provided opportunities to display that consistently at the global stage. The Women’s Asian Cup will be one of those opportunities that will allow the players to showcase their talent.”
AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers
(18-24 October) Group A: Chinese Taipei, Bahrain, Laos, Turkmenistan Group D: Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Guam, Lebanon Eight group winners qualify for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup (20 January – 6 February 2022) Seeded nations: Australia, China PR, Japan, India (hosts) The top five nations at India 2022 (aside from Australia) will qualify for Australia & New Zealand 2023, while the next two best sides will feature in the new inter-continental playoff.