One of the perks of being a champion is you get to be invited to see the Chief Executive in Malacañang. In the case of the Philippine National Women’s Football Team, it happened last Wednesday when they made a courtesy call to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the Heroes’ Hall in the Palace by the Pasig River.
The Filipinas or the Malditas are the current toast of the sporting world, not only in the Philippines but in the region as well for winning the country’s first ever title in the ASEAN Football Federation.
Last Sunday, the team beat perennial tormentors Thailand, 3-0, to end decades of futility and frustrations, especially for long suffering football fans. In winning the title, the Philippines dropped just once match and two goals overall throughout the entire tournament. The Filipinas dominated erstwhile champion Vietnam in the semis, 4-0, before humbling and exacting revenge on Thailand in the finals.
“The win is the greatest gift that you have given your country,” the President said during the courtesy call.
He was aware of the impact of what the Filipinas have accomplished after years of being the favorite whippings girls in ASEAN football, and they accomplished the feat, while the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. More importantly, President Marcos promised to give more government support not only to the women’s football team but to all national athletes as well.
“We have to do better in terms of government support when it comes to our athletes. Medyo nabawasan nu’ng nawala ‘yung sports sa eskuwelahan, when DECS (Department of Education, Culture and Sports) became Department of Education alone, the emphasis on sport became a little bit less,” the President said.
“But that is something that we really should encourage because sport means more than just playing games. It means developing discipline, learning how to sacrifice, learning to be gracious in victory, learning to work with other people as a team,” he added.
The Filipinas have been riding a winning streak, so to speak. They have qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, bagged a bronze medal in the SEA Games after more than three decades of not having a podium finish and now the won the AFF Championship 2022 in a very dominating form. And the team can only get better as we look forward to the biggest event for women’s soccer in July next year.
The team is eyeing to have more friendlies as part of their continuing buildup for the World Cup. A tuneup game against Costa Rica was mentioned. The coaching staff is indeed bent on having the best possible line up once the team arrives in Australia or in New Zealand.
What they have accomplished hopefully will help gain more fans and support not only for football but to other sports in general. The Filipinas have shown that we, too, can excel in football, where patience, hard work and sound program can deliver the gold in the long run.
The Filipinas deserve all the accolades, the support and the love they have been getting the past few days. It is just proper that they reap what they sow for all the sacrifices and hard work they did since they received a call-up for the national team.
For The Designated Kit Man, what the Filipinas did more, however, is to give the spotlight not only to football but to other sports as well. These sports deserve the support and love we show to our basketball teams. Filipinos can be champions in other sports disciplines as well whether be in football, gymnastics, weightlifting, kurash or even in pole vault. The Filipinas also showed that other sports, too, are worthy of our love and support and maybe, just maybe, we can spare some love and passion that we always give to basketball. And, most especially, the resources, too.
The Filipinas are a good investment, even the Azkals, too, and the rest of other national teams not having the Gilas word on their jerseys. The kurash team, by the way, sent 10 players in the Hanoi SEA Games in Vietnam last May and nine of them came home with at least a bronze medal.
All they need is love and support, even just a 10th of what we give to basketball will go a long way in their campaign to bring more honor and fame for the country with less drama, ego and excuses. Let the attendance of the championship game last Sunday in every game of the Filipinas or any national team competing against other countries be the norm and not the exception. Let more corporate support be there for all national teams. Let us be there for our national athletes as they compete. They should be in our thoughts and prayers at the bare minimum.
Several national sporting associations can learn from the women’s football team. Heck, even my beloved Azkals can learn a thing or two from the Filipinas’ template on how to mount and even win a massive campaign. Incidentally, the Azkals, composed mostly of players based in the country, quietly slipped to Bali, Indonesia for a tune-up game against Timor Leste last July 16. The team won 4-1. I think the move to bring more local-based players is a good move. At least we have a ready team just in case foreign-based Azkals can’t play during non-FIFA dates.
Which brings us to the current outrage on what is happening to the national men’s basketball team. We can’t blame the die-hard fans of Gilas Pilipinas for calling out for blood after a string of dismal performances in international tournaments. I, too, share their disappointment. After all, basketball is the number sport in the country and also the number one disappointment of late, too.
Reality is we can’t just assemble a team to compete in an international tournament on a few weeks’ notice and expect to win titles or even just a few games. Then, after the team loses, we hear “pabebe” excuses and promise to do better.
We have seen these many “palusot” for the last few years already and they are no longer funny. I don’t want to addmore salt to the injury that is Gilas now. But the truth is, we can’t even beat Japan nowadays, and even Indonesia for crying out loud.
Enough of the hype, the drama and heart please. We need brains, now.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
For comments or questions, you can reach The Designated Kit Man at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his account at Twitter: @erelcabatbat