Amid all of the recent success of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team has achieved in the past few months, one of the things missing is the chance to compete on home soil while being surrounded by Filipino fans.
Following glorious campaigns in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the 31st Southeast Asian Games, the Filipinas now have the opportunity to make up for lost time as they will compete in the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship hosted by the country next week.
“I know I can speak for all of the girls (about) how exciting it is to be playing in the Philippines. This will be my first time playing in the Philippines and we all have family over here, extended family and immediate family,” said Tahnai Annis, one of the team’s main midfielders.
“I think it will just mean that much more to play in front of our friends, family, and supporters since we’ve been playing kind of all over now and haven’t really got to have that home-field advantage, home-field crowd.”
Coach Alen Stajcic described his squad’s rise in the international game as “meteoric”. For the Filipinas to have come this far, they needed to become globetrotters — having training camps in the United States, Europe, and Australia as well as official tournaments in Vietnam and India.
Indeed, teams and individual athletes, in general, perform better when they feel they have warm bodies supporting them in the venue. After so long, for the first time since the 30th Southeast Asian Games to be exact, the Filipinas will be able to feel the warmth of their fellow countrymen in the stands.
“I think everyone is just really excited for us. I think all the support we will have will really help us through this long tournament. I know everyone is really excited and really honored to play in the Philippines,” added Annis.
When it comes to center-back Dominique Randle, the upcoming AFF Women’s Championship is very special for her as it has allowed her to step foot on Philippine soil for the first time in her life.
Just like Annis, the 27-year-old defender is looking forward to experiencing Filipino support firsthand when the Filipinas compete in Rizal Memorial as well as reconnecting with her roots and relatives in the country while she is at it.
“It’s really exciting. I know when we first found out (about) the tournaments we were going to, this one was one that I particularly circled in. I’ve already talked to lots of families, trying to coordinate, making sure they have access to get the games, there’s this stream, and I know they’ve been really excited,” said Randle.
“I think this is a really good opportunity just to thank them for all that they have done to support us while we’ve been training and competing. I think it’s really great to feel that familial support now that we’re here.”
In the 10 times they have competed in the AFF Women’s Championship, the Filipinas’ highest finish was fourth place in the 2019 edition. Before that particular edition, they failed to get past the group stage.
Just like in their past two international tourneys, coach Alen Stajcic’s wards are seeking to break another proverbial glass ceiling. This time, though, they will strive to do so with the home crowd behind their backs when they play.
“I think we just take every game one step at a time. Hopefully, we channel that energy that we have from the fans and our families, and we can show our heart through the way that we play,” concluded Randle.
“I know I’m really excited and really looking forward to playing in front of my family who doesn’t really get a chance to come live to any of our competitions.”