Filipinas take entire basketball-crazed country to a football journey to remember | Inquirer Sports

Filipinas take entire basketball-crazed country to a football journey to remember

Philippines Fifa Women's World Cup New Zealand Norway

FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 – Group A – Norway v Philippines – Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand – July 30, 2023 Philippines fans inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/David Rowland

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—The longest-tenured member of the Philippine women’s football team had more than a bucket of tears while reflecting on the once-impossible dream of being in the Fifa Women’s World Cup and seeing it come to a crushing end on Sunday at Auckland’s Eden Park in New Zealand.

“It was an incredible ride,” cocaptain and defender Hali Long said after the Filipinas went down in defeat, a stinging 6-0 scoreline at the hands of Norway before a predominant crowd of Filipinos from almost every corner of the globe that felt nothing but pride over what was an exhilarating journey in women’s football’s ultimate stage.


“There’s so many firsts that happened here—our first goal, our first win, our first game, our first card, our first anything,” said Long. “It was all a first for us and you can’t take it away from us. I mean it takes some teams three, four, five World Cups just to win a game, let alone score a goal.


“I couldn’t be any more proud of the effort that we gave in this whole campaign and made our group pretty interesting. But yeah, I couldn’t be more proud of the effort we gave,” she added.

Philippines' Hali Long Fifa Women's World Cup

Philippines’ Hali Long reacts at the end of the Women’s World Cup Group A soccer match between Norway and Philippines in Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, July 30, 2023. Norway defeated Philippines 6-0. (AP Photo/Rafaela Pontes)

Long had seen many days of sorrow and, recently, many days of joy since donning the national shirt for the first time since 2016 as the Philippines climbed from just trying to become relevant in Southeast Asia to becoming a team that showed it can compete against some of the best women’s football nations in the world.

And that’s why everything experienced during these past few days was special for the Filipinas and Long, who even before what turned out to be their final game here had cried while singing the national anthem.

“Anytime ‘Lupang Hinirang’ comes on, it just means so much because it’s like you die for your countrymen,” said Long as the tears flowed again before reporters from Manila and a handful of foreign journalists at a chilly mixed zone area.

“I mean, it’s everything. It’s the pride and honor you have, to represent your country everywhere on the global stage—as an underdog, as a beauty queen, as a boxer, as a weightlifter, as a futbolera. It’s an utmost honor to, one, bring the ‘Lupang Hinirang’ here, bring the Philippine flag here for the first time and to be able to be on the pitch to do that.

“It’s just the definite highlight of my life,” concluded the 28-year-old Long.


🥹🇵🇭WATCH: This crowd in Makati watches and sings the Philippine national anthem along with an emotional Hali Long seen on screen.Norway and Philippines clash right now in Group A of the Fifa Women’s World Cup. | via Melo Fuertes, Inquirer Sports

Posted by Inquirer Sports on Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Filipinas, led by coach Alen Stajcic who was key in the Filipinas’ incredible rise since taking the helm in late-2021, came to the World Cup not content on just being here, but to show the world, especially back home, that they can be at par with any team.

But the final match was also an indication that the Filipinas will have to do more work in order to not just return to this level in four years’ time.

Promise to return

Philippines' Hali Long Women's World Cup New Zealand Norway

Philippines’ Hali Long, left, and Dominique Randle react at the end of the Women’s World Cup Group A soccer match between Norway and Philippines at Eden Park stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, July 30, 2023. Norway defeated Philippines 6-0. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Norway progressed to the knockout stage while leaving the Filipinas to begin the process of hoping to be back for the next one in 2025.

Sarina Bolden, who became the star of the Filipinas’ campaign with her historic goal in the win over New Zealand almost a week prior in Wellington, almost made no hesitation in manifesting that this year’s edition is not just a one-off thing.

“I mean, I’m ready for the next World Cup,” said Bolden. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to qualify and we just need to continue what we’ve been doing and don’t change up things too much and continue to learn and grow and trust the process.

“Four years is a long time from now, but the process starts now and how can we get better, how can we grow from this, learn from this? And I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to be a better team for it,” she added.

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Amid that process is the hope that the beautiful sport can at least take steps in making sure that it becomes a part of the Philippine sporting landscape, not just in the present after a multiple number of viewing parties in malls across the country added further buzz on the historic run.

“I just want all the little boys and girls in the Philippines to know that this is a dream that can be attainable. I mean, they can do this,” said goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel. “We want to make sure we grow this game enough for them, that it is available to them, and they can be able to be in our shoes one day. And that’s really our goal for the group of us, together.”


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TAGS: Football, Sports

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