One of this year’s, if not the decade’s, feel good stories would be the exploits of the Philippine Women’s National Football team, who qualified for the FIFA World Cup, and even scored a goal and win, a first for any team in the nation’s history.
The Filipinas, who jumped in the FIFA rankings from 68th to their best-ever 46th place as they earned their way to a World Cup slot. The debutants were drawn into Group A, with co-host New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland.
In the country’s first-ever World Cup match, our feisty female representatives suffered a 2-0 defeat against Switzerland. On July 25, 2023, they made a global splash in a big way when the Filipinos won 1-0 against New Zealand, on their home ground. Sabrina Bolden scored the winning goal, the Philippines’ first ever in a World Cup, in the 24th minute of the match, via a header from a Sara Eggesvik cross. The Filipinas played so well in that win against the co-host that goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel was awarded player of the match. However, in their next match and last chance to continue their Cinderella run into the round of 16, they fell to former champs Norway, 6-0.
In the euphoria of the overachievement, the Philippine Football Federation has described the Filipinas’ debut on the world stage as ‘magical’, a word that has been used a lot when it comes to them and their incredible and inspiring feat.
While ‘magical’ is a good way to describe what the Filipinas were able to achieve, given the limitations that football isn’t as popular as our basketball, our de facto national sport, the word kind of got to me because it implies that they didn’t work their butts off to get to the World Cup and even score a goal and win a game in the territory of the hosts.
This is because when some people hear the word ‘magic’ they think about a person waving a wand, snapping fingers, or saying a mystical word to make something that seems impossible happen. And if that is the case, describing the Filipinas’ feat as magical cheapens it a bit, if you ask me. Some may think that just because their last names are not commonly Filipino, then there was some magic involved which made it easier for them to qualify for the World Cup, a competition where you cannot fake your way in and there are no ‘special diplomas’ for trying.
However, if you come to think of it, real magic never just happens. It’s never as simple as waving a wand, uttering a magic word, or snapping a finger. Real magicians, especially the world class ones, go through years of practice and often, failure, before they can manage to perform amazing magic. Every single, seemingly effortless trick requires practice, preparation, and coordination if it is going to be run perfectly and make the audience believe that magic just happened.
I know what I speak of because there was this time I tried practicing one basic card trick with my kid, and it took me almost forever to just about pull it off. I still have a card in my wallet as a reminder of that time when I would practice if I had nothing to do. I never did perfect the trick, mostly because I didn’t practice enough, but up to now, the card (a 10 of spades) is still there in my wallet… a constant reminder of how difficult it is to produce magic, and one reason why this article came to be.
Maybe that is exactly what the Filipinas did. They trained and practiced over and over again, until they were able to produce magic and make history. Unfortunately for them, when tested against the best of the world, their magic was not yet strong enough. But the point is that they made to that level and made a big enough splash to be recognized. Scoring a goal and defeating the home team in the World Cup is no mean feat, and even if they ultimately bowed out of the tournament, they have proven to their compatriots, and to the world, that anything is possible if we just put our backs into it. Perhaps they do need to practice some more, master new tricks, ultimately become a better team, but if they keep it up and we keep supporting them, we should still have a chance to make magic happen again, consistently qualify into the succeeding World Cups, and maybe even fare better.
The point I’m trying to make is magic doesn’t just happen. It is a result of dedication, perseverance, and hard work. The Filipinas proved it during their magical World Cup run and it is something that we should be able to replicate, not only in women’s football, but all other sports and endeavors as well.*