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Hali Long grateful for Inna Palacios’ impact to program

AUCKLAND — Hali Long broke down in tears after the Philippine Women’s National Football Team ended its campaign in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 6-0 loss to Norway at the Eden Park stadium here.

The 5-foot-8 center-back captained the Filipinas in their matches against Switzerland, host nation New Zealand, and Norway. She was a rock in the Philippine defense as she led her teammates in stifling the opponents’ attack.

Ultimately, the gulf in class from the European nations was apparent, but Long and the Filipinas have so much to be proud of.

“It was an incredible ride. I mean, there were so many firsts that happened here. Our first goal, our first win, our first game, our first card, our first anything. It was all a first for us, and you can’t take any of that away from us,” she said.

“I mean, it takes some teams three, four, five World Cups just to win a game, let alone score a goal. So I couldn’t be prouder of the effort we gave in this whole campaign, and we made our group pretty interesting. But yeah, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort we gave.”

Long first started representing the Philippines back in 2016. She played in tournaments such as the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, 2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, 2019 AFF Women’s Championship, and various more before the Filipinas rose to prominence in 2022.

She has worked with many coaches and players who helped build the program into what it is today. She could not help but turn more emotional as she listed some of the people who have made major contributions to her personally and to the team and its rapid growth over the past 18 months.SEAG-2019-WFB-Bronze-Match-MYA-def-PHI-Palacios Hali Long grateful for Inna Palacios' impact to program Filipinas Football News  - philippine sports news

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“Being with the program since 2015-2016, there have been a lot of players, staff, everyone who came through this team. And I couldn’t have done it without Inna (Palacios) by my side,” said Long.

“She’s my best friend, she’s my partner, she’s my captain. So my performance, everything I do is because of her. I wouldn’t be half the player I am right now if she didn’t teach me what it means to be a silent leader of Filipina to play with grace, respect. So I couldn’t have done it without her teaching me all of that.

“So if we could leave anything, it’s all the stuff I’ve gotten from all my teammates from before. From Cam (Rodriguez), from Patrice Impelido to Belay Fernando who’s here, everyone. All of them, they all had a part in this. And Marielle (Benitez), and coach Let (Dimzon), and Buda Bautista.

“I mean, they’ve all been a part of this journey. They’ve all been a part of my journey, and it really is all for them. And everyone I don’t know of. It really is all for them. So we can keep doing this again. Wow. Sorry. They mean everything to me. I play for them. Each and every second I can. I would do it time and time and time and again,” she continued, trying to fight back tears.

This World Cup campaign will live long in the memory of Filipino sports fans. Football was suddenly revived into the mainstream consciousness. People back in the Philippines flocked to different watch parties to support the Filipinas.

Here in New Zealand, tens of thousands of Filipinos supported the team in their matches against Switzerland, New Zealand, and Norway. Now that the tournament is over, football fans are hopeful that this will not just be a flash in the pan but something sustainable in the long run.

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“I mean, us even qualifying for the World Cup, I think opened a lot of eyes to what it takes to get here. Obviously, Sir Jefferson Chang and the PFF took a really big chance to give us anything and everything we could to prepare to even qualify for the World Cup,” said Long.

“And to bet on the unknown is a risk. I mean, in business and life, so for them to do that, we wouldn’t be here. So it really does take investment. It takes giving someone a shot. Just believe in someone. Believe in a person, an athlete, a scholar. Just believe in them and see what they can do and see how someone can flourish.”

Written By

Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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