LABAN — Filipinos Around the Globe Rally Behind the Philippines’ Soccer Team to Compete in FIFA World Cup

It was joyous news to hear for Filipinos around the globe when the Philippine women’s football (in the U.S. called soccer) team clinched an automatic berth to the 2023 FIFA World Cup that will take place this July in Australia and New Zealand. It will be the first time for the Philippines to compete in the World Cup; and history has already been cemented independent of the team’s FIFA WC’s performance.

The automatic bid came in January when team Philippines beat Chinese Taipei in a thrilling penalties shootout, 4-3. See YouTube video for that historic victory.

You don’t need to be a football-soccer sports fan to comprehend how significant it is to earn a spot in football’s most prestigious international tournament. Like the Olympics – arguably even trumping that sporting event – FIFA World Cup that also takes place every four years has become a source of national and ethnic pride. The aura, prestige and buzz surrounding the World Cup is well beyond the sport itself.

Countries just qualifying to compete at this sport’s biggest stage is similar to when an actor is nominated for the Oscars (just getting nominated is a high honor), but it’s grander because millions of people worldwide are invested in it as fans and watching the FIFA World Cup.

Late December last year in the men’s FIFA World Cup football-soccer, Argentina defeated defending champion France in 4-3. Record-breaking numbers across multiple media markets were reported. For example, in Japan, the group game between Japan and Costa Rica in Nov. 27 drew an average audience of 36.37 million viewers. It’s expected that the women’s FIFA WC games will also be record-breaking as the sport is increasingly drawing new fans.

Show your support, show up in person if possible
Filipinos around the globe from Manila to Manhattan, from Laoag to Los Angeles, Makati to Milan, Riyadh to Rome, and of course, Honolulu, we encourage you to show your support by attending FIFA 2023. Much of the glamor surrounding the FIFA tourney besides the athletes themselves are the fans in attendance. Show your pride for your country, for your ancestral homeland.

Each country invited to this prestigious tournament normally is well-represented and has an army of passionate fans. Filipinos cannot disappoint in this aspect and must represent in massive numbers. We don’t know how huge the Filipino crowd will be since this is their first FIFA World Cup appearance. But if social media is an indicator, support is swelling for this team among our community.

The brackets have already been determined and the Philippines is in Group A, along with European powerhouse Norway (former World Cup champion and former World Cup runner-up). Co-host New Zealand is also in Group A and will have a home crowd advantage. Not to mention that their neighboring country and co-host Australia will most likely be routing for New Zealand as well, which makes it even more crucial that Filipinos show up in person to rally in swarming numbers for our team. Switzerland is the other team in Group A. Two of the top teams in each group (there are eight groups) move on to the next round.

International sports participation reflects on a country’s stage of development
Sports at the international level is a form of public relations for a country. The better a country does in sports, often this reflects on a country’s progression. It can show how well financially a country is doing and its ability to support sports programs and their athletes by way of both private and public funds.

Sports as an industry for athletes are additional opportunities for their residents to make a prosperous living. There’s no better example of this than in the U.S. where there are American football, basketball, baseball and other professional leagues.

The main sports league in the Philippines is basketball. It’s a money-maker not just for their professional athletes but for corporate sponsors, business-related sports collectibles and food vendors at arenas. Sports medicine, media, ticket sellers, construction, equipment manufacturers are only a few ways professional sports bolster a country’s economy. Professional sports is big business, big entertainment, and not just about people playing a game.

At the international level, the Philippines is making advances. For example, in the last 2020 Olympics, the Philippines finally won its first Gold medal and also won their most medals.

In the past they’ve garnered five silver medals and eight bronze medals. But the clearest example of international sports success for a Filipino was the amazing career of Manny Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing. He has won twelve major world titles. He’s also the first boxer ever to become a four-decade world champion, winning world championships across the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Pacquiao is regarded by boxing experts as among the best ever in the sport.

Uniting Filipinos globally and instilling pride
Pacquiao’s incredible career brought Filipinos around the globe together, gave younger Filipinos a sense of ethnic pride. His story of overcoming poverty, of living in the streets as a youth to attaining almost mythical boxing triumphs, was appealing to both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike, worldwide.

The reality is by nature people love winning. And through sports, there’s that fantasy of winning vicariously through the athletes we love and can identify with.

Filipinos around the world are hungry for another Pacquiao-like moment in international sports. We’re ready to have one of our own compete at the highest level to bring pride for our people, nation and ancestral country. This is perhaps why there is building excitement over the Philippine women football team.

To the coaches and players of the Philippine women football team, we are all behind you. Soar high and dig deep, give it your all.

Congratulations are already due for earning an automatic berth to the World Cup. We also hope that Philippine-based corporations and the government will do all they can to support the team not just leading into this year’s World Cup, but also in building the program into the future.

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