Filipinas, champions of ASEAN

By Joshua Corcuera

The Philippine national women’s football team defeated Thailand 3-0 in Manila last Sunday evening to be crowned as the champions of the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship—their first title of the most prominent women’s football tournament in Southeast Asia.

In front of more than 8,200 people in Rizal Memorial Stadium, the Filipinas scored two goals in the first twenty minutes of the game, both coming from set-piece opportunities. The top goal scorer of the tournament, Sarina Bolden of the Filipinas, put the nail in the coffin by scoring a header from a corner in the 89th minute—ensuring the historic victory of the national team.

It is also interesting that the Filipinas handed Thailand the latter’s first defeat in the tournament in the final. When the two teams met in the group stage, Thailand managed to beat the Philippines by a single goal due to a defensive error with just a few minutes remaining in the second half. Sweet revenge, probably. These victories against Thailand in the final (3-0) and Vietnam in the semi-final (4-0) are encouraging results considering the fact that the Philippines would enter the World Cup in 2023.

More importantly, the growing strength and interest in football is a good sign that the world’s most popular sport is gaining more attention among the public. This could help assure that the future of Philippine football is in safe hands. However, it is also imperative for huge entities such as the government and corporations to provide financial support, just like in other sports, if becoming a regional powerhouse is the objective of the national team. With the victory of the Filipinas, several current and former politicians have congratulated them.

In social media, it is likewise encouraging to see that there are tens of thousands of positive reactions as to posts related to the Filipinas. Also, the highlights of the national team in its match against Vietnam had nearly half a million views and over 30,000 reactions on Facebook. To promote name-recall and awareness in social media is another crucial step to help popularize the sport among ordinary Filipinos. There have been few criticisms in social media claiming that most players of the Filipinas do not look Filipinas in the first place—that most of them are half-Filipina and half-foreigner.

While it is true that most of them are half-Filipina, it cannot be denied that they proudly represented the entire Filipino nation in the regional stage and soon, in the world stage. Furthermore, we have to acknowledge the reality that most people in our country, including the youth, frequently play basketball and volleyball—despite our average height being among the shortest in the world. Henceforth, it is reasonable to assume that our potential for other sports, football included, has been diminished or reduced. On the same day of the historic victory of the Filipinas, it is unfortunate that the national men’s basketball team of our country suffered defeat against New Zealand—a few days after losing against Lebanon. While supporting our basketball athletes is obviously good, maybe we should also support our athletes in other sports as well, and try to appreciate new sports.