A feisty yet caring mother figure, a troubleshooter, a hardworking, capable and efficient administrator, and a friend of all.
This was how friends and acquaintances described Maria Cristina “Nina” Ahorro, the well-loved and longtime staff member of the Philippine Football Federation, who passed away last Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. She was 63.
Ahorro served four PFF presidents beginning with the late Coca-Cola executive Atty. Rene Adad in the mid-90s, followed by Johnny Romualdez, Jose Mari Martinez, respectively, up to its present head, Mariano Araneta Jr.
Petite yet possessing a husky, smoldering voice, the PFF staffer supervised the local football governing body’s development projects, which included overseeing the requirements of the national youth and women’s team teams, as well being in charge of the Asian Football Confederation financial assistance program.
The AFAP is the subsidy given to PFF registered coaches nationwide.
“She (Ahorro) was my like my troubleshooter when I had trouble with some of my youth teams or some of my coaches, she had a way of approaching them,” Araneta said.
“Ang coaches naman, ang gusto nila makausap si Nina. Mommy kasi ang dating. (The coaches wanted to talk through her because Nina was like a mother to them).
“Philippine football lost an esteemed friend in Nina Ahorro. Words cannot describe the feeling of losing a respected colleague and stakeholder. We will miss her dearly. We plan to pay her a more proper tribute once this pandemic is over.”
PFF general secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes shared the same sentiments, saying: “Nina will always be remembered for her kindness, particularly to the Youth and Women’s National Teams that she has been administering through the years.”
Gastanes also cited Ahorro’s willingness to go the extra mile in looking after members of the national women’s and youth teams, whom she treated like her own children.
He remembered the times when Ahorro would “stay overnight at the office to complete the requirements of the youth teams whenever they would go for training or competing abroad. She took care of the nitty-gritty without complaint.”
The PFF general secretary said Ahorro treated her wards with “TLC” – tender, loving care – and that the affection was often mutual.
“Nina would fuss over them, fetching them to and from the airport, including the send-off dinners,” Gastanes reminisced.
“She would also ask me at times if some of the team members could stay overnight at the office before sending them back to their respective provinces. Of course I did.”
Former national women’s team standout and current age group coach Marielle Benitez-Javellana was among the beneficiaries of Ahorro’s motherly approach.
“As a young coach way back in 2016 in my first assignment with the national youth team, ma’am Nina was with me there every step of the way, helping, guiding us as we took care of 30 young girls,” Benitez-Javella recalled.
“She (Ahorro) stayed with us during the training camp, taking the bus from the PFF office (in Pasig City) to Los Baños, Laguna, to provide us with our basic needs and so that the training camp would run smoothly.
“Ma’am Nina was feisty, always fighting for the needs of her coaches. But she was also sweet and thoughtful. I will miss her dearly.”
Philippine Azkals team coordinator Patrick Ace Bright was likewise wistful of his recollections of Ahorro, recalling the many times she would offer snacks or any treat available whenever he would pop in at her office.
“Ma’am Nina was like our mother sa PFF,” Bright said. “Every time I would visit her office to say hi, she would always offer something like coffee, food, and good conversation. She was always on the lookout for us.”
Known for her neatness, Ahorro could also sometimes flash a mean temper whenever she saw something or someone out of place, according to former PFF staffer Ariel Serrantes, who now works with Kaya FC.
“She was like a mother to me at the PFF and taught me other things. Pero nasty rin siyang magalit if she saw something that was misplaced. (She had a nasty temper when she saw something that was misplaced),” Serrantes said.
A PFF anecdote went that former national team member Bert Honasan, a PFF regional coordinator and who had a loud reputation, once earned Ahorro’s ire, literally compelling the taller and bigger Honasan to “stand in a corner” for his misbehavior.
Meek as a lamb, Honasan, younger brother of former Senator Gringo Honasan, did just that, a sign of respect and recognition for the woman.
“She (Ahorro) was our mommy in the PFF office. Very frank but nice and loving,” said former PFF technical director and national women’s coach Marlon Maro.
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