After the Philippine Women’s World Cup football team achieved the improbable feats of not only qualifying for the prestigious World Cup, reaching a level of competition that has never been achieved by any football team in the history of the country, and even scoring the lone goal of the game to earn a shocking win against co-host New Zealand, Filipinos should have new sports idols to look up to.
Although the Filipinas lost to former champions Norway, 6-0 on Sunday, and were eliminated from the competition, the Philippine Football Federation called their World Cup run a “magical” debut.
As coach Alen Stajcic praised the team, many of whom are of mixed descent, for punching “so far above their weight,” the rest of the world certainly took notice as our players proved that given the right training and support, the Filipino can compete, if not excel in the world stage.
Stajcic, the driving force behind the Filipinas’ jump from 68th in the FIFA world rankings to currently best-ever 46th, called on Filipino sports authorities to increase investments in football to give the country a stronger shot in future tournaments.
Football is not as popular as basketball in the Philippines, but it is hoped that the Filipinas’ magical romp into the World Cup has reignited interest in football, which was last the talk of the town in the 2010s, when the men’s national team, the Azkals, went on an Asian winning streak, which however, unlike their women counterparts, failed to reach the World Cup.
The Filipinas and the Azkals have shown that we are capable of competing with the world’s best, even if the support and investment in the sport is not ideal. And because we know that it is impossible to replace our de facto national sport of basketball, we can at the very least ask our sporting officials and the private sector to give football and other sports where we have a better chance of excelling in international competitions, the attention it deserves.
Congratulations to the Filipinas on making it to the World Cup and making a splash. Thank you for showing the world that Filipinos are not pushovers who are just happy to qualify, but we were there to compete with the best. Our Filipinas may have been overwhelmed by Norway and eliminated from the tournament, which happens to half of the teams that made it in, but there is so much room for improvement and we were given once more a glimpse of the massive potential of Philippine football.
Hopefully we can continue to focus on sports and endeavors where the Filipino can truly excel and compete, not just in sports, but in everything that we set out to do as a nation as well.*