With dream coming true, Filipinas buckle down to reality of hard work | Inquirer Sports
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FOOTBALL WORLD CUP

With dream coming true, Filipinas buckle down to reality of hard work

/ 05:10 AM April 29, 2022
The Filipinas celebrate after booking a ticket to the World Cup

The Filipinas celebrate after booking a ticket to the World Cup. —AFC PHOTO

From halfway around the globe, it was not so much of a stretch to envision playing in the World Cup someday.

Tahnai Annis daydreamed about it a lot.

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“I felt that something I liked would be something that I could achieve,” Annis said on Tuesday in an interview arranged by Summit Water.

She started fancying herself in front of a World Cup audience after watching a game that resonated with more than one player in the Philippines national women’s football team.

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“That was back in 1999 … US versus China. Just seeing how packed the stadium was and how everyone was so excited about women’s football. That was the first time,” Annis said.

That game linked the hopes of Annis and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.

“I started dreaming of playing [in the World Cup] ever since I saw the [US women’s national team in the 1999 World Cup] in their penalty shootout with China and seeing Brandi Chastain rip her shirt off after they won,” McDaniel had previously told the Inquirer.

Dreaming about the World Cup from this side of the planet, however, was not as easy.

“Growing up in the Philippines, football wasn’t exactly [popular] as a sport,” said Inna Palacios, also a goalkeeper for the Filipinas, nee Malditas. “Only a few were playing it back then. You wouldn’t even see matches on television, so we always had to wake up and stream [the games].”

Pipe dream

Even Hali Long, who grew up in the United States, felt that the World Cup was a pipe dream.

“I didn’t really know it was possible to achieve that,” Long, a gutsy defender, said.

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Well, they did the impossible. Last January, during an Asian qualifying tournament, the Filipino women clinched the country’s first appearance in football’s grandest stage.

And regardless of what part of the world they began dreaming of the World Cup, the result remains almost ethereal.

“[T]o actually have that opportunity is still very surreal,” Annis said. “Once it gets closer, it will feel more real.”

The global meet will be cohosted by New Zealand and Australia in July 2023. And as the team scratches off the days to the tournament, the dreamlike feel will be replaced slowly by the reality of getting into competitive shaped for the event.

The Filipinas will compete in the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, next month and the Asian Games in China in September.

“We’re using the tournaments that we’re going to have in the next few months for our preparations for the World Cup,” said Palacios.

For now, one thing is clear for the three booters. There is no doubt that they would all relish the historic moment.

“To be able to sing the national anthem of the Philippines in the World Cup will be the biggest honor I’ll ever have in my life,” said Long.

“Everything I’ve worked for, all the years training, sacrifice would just kind of feel all worth it and just be grateful to be a part of the biggest soccer stage in the world,” said Annis.

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TAGS: Filipinas, Football, Tahnai Annis, World Cup
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