Hali Long: Time has come for Filipinas
All things, Hali Long believes, happen in their proper time.
“You don’t get everything you want exactly when you want it,” Long told the Inquirer on Wednesday, during a luncheon hosted for the Philippine national women’s football squad, which was named Team of the Year for 2022 by the Inquirer Sports Awards.
The top-notch defender, the most capped international in the current women’s squad, should know. She had bet on herself once, pouring all her life savings into a month-long trip from the US to here so she could try out for the national squad.
She missed the cut.
But she came back even stronger. Now, Long is at 69 caps for the Filipinas, the national team moniker. And she can look back on that “heartbreak” and say everything was worth it.
“You really have to bet on yourself,” Long said. “To do that at such a young age was a privilege. To essentially give everything that I had at that time to fly here to participate in the Luzon tryouts, I felt like I had everything to lose. All my savings on one plane ticket.
“Just to see how far I’ve come in this journey, that [missed cut] means nothing now, it was a small sacrifice for all the rewards and accolades and honor I have brought to the country, to myself and to football.”
That small sacrifice has led to Long being an integral part of the Filipinas, who the 28-year-old star believes are now caught in their right moment.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time,” Long said. “All the games we played in 2022, all the opportunities we’ve had to travel and play different countries definitely brought out our professionalism, our maturity.”
The Filipinas won the Team of the Year award on the strength of their historic showing in last year’s Asian Cup, where they booked a ticket to the Fifa (international football federation) Women’s World Cup. It will be the Philippines’ first appearance on football’s grandest stage and Long believes the team is ready to seize the moment.
“We’ve said time and time again, we’re not going there to participate—we’re going there to compete,” Long said. “And to compete, we have to win games. We have to set goals for ourselves.”
The Filipinas have put pressure on themselves by saying they are targeting to get out of the group stage.
And they’ve doubled that pressure by admitting that Coach of the Year winner Allen Stajcic’s team is gunning for the gold in the Southeast Asian Games as well.