The Philippines made the improbable on Sunday when they made another history by bagging its first-ever AFF Women’s Championship.
For the longest time, the Filipinas were trying to pull themselves into relevance and in the big picture when it came to international football. And the year 2022 has been nothing but memorable for this special group of women who made history one after another.
The first-ever appearance in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The first-ever berth in one of the sport’s biggest stages — the FIFA World Cup. The bronze medal in the Southeast Asian Games tournament — a first-ever podium finish in the biennial Games.
And now, the first-ever crown as Queens of ASEAN Football.
“I don’t know. I can’t hear you, so that’s what it should be,” the Australian tactician said as the venue was drowned by cheers and tears from the 8,357-strong in attendance.
“That’s just exhilarating, isn’t it? To have that performance and this crowd. Football is alive in the Philippines and that’s all that matters.”
The squad knew of the gravity of the situation, but despite the pressure of the moment — and as what they have done all throughout the year so far, the Filipinas just chose to win every moment.
“Look, obviously the players are pressured, but for me, it’s easy,” the former Australian women’s side coach admitted. “I can yell at them whether it’s their first round game or a final, but, you know, for them to get through these grueling schedule? That’s ten games we’ve played in the twenty-five days across two continents, and to finish like that we so much heart, so much spirit, and determination is really a testament to them.
“And just a quick one, we adjusted, we rotated the lines. All our set pieces — we spent hours and hours, and on a night like tonight, it paid off.”
At the start of the tournament, the seasoned mentor called on the supporters to come and support the Filipinas, and the final match drew the tournament’s biggest attendance.
“I think, it was 400 on the second game, and now? So that’s we want; that’s the big picture we want,” the former Matildas head coach said. “For young boys and young girls to aspire to be like these guys and grow the game. And you know, it’s the world game for a reason because anyone can play, tall or short. You know, it doesn’t matter where you’re born, doesn’t matter what color you are, doesn’t matter what religion you are, doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are.
“That’s why it’s the world game and I hope it spreads throughout the Philippines tonight.”