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Football in the Philippines

One goal at a time: Filipino football’s historic moves

Many seem to think that football should be the Filipinos’ favorite sport because of our shorter and more agile builds. But who’s to say we aren’t on the way to making it so? Recently, the Philippine football teams have made major steps in the international playing field.

While we still may not have the highest medal count, our national athletes have been building our country’s presence in the sport around the world. 

The Philippines' medals for football from 2012 to 2022.

Over the last decade, football has slowly started to pick up more success internationally.

In the recent Southeast Asian Games, our national women’s team went home with a bronze finish. This was the Philippines’ first SEA Games medal for football since 1985.

Our men’s team has also seen its share of semifinal appearances. In the biennial AFF Championship, the Azkals have finished in third place in 2012, 2014, and 2018.

However, one of the most notable performances for Philippine football is not determined by a medal. We’re referring to the National Women’s Football Team’s 4th place finish in the AFC Women’s Asia Cup.

And yes, 4th isn’t the same as a podium finish. But it may as well be for the Filipina Booters. Their win against Chinese Taipei granted them a slot in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

This is historic for the country. No other Philippine team has ever made it to the top level of football before. And we could not have reached this pinnacle without the progression we made in local fields.

On local soil

Football seemed to begin flourishing in the Philippines more prominently in the 2010s, ever since the “Miracle of Hanoi”. After the Men’s National Football Team defeated Vietnam 2-0 in the group stage of the 2010 AFF Championship, the sport saw an upwards trajectory. The Filipino people’s interest in professional football began to grow.  

It was after this period that the country’s two major football leagues were birthed.

The Philippines Football League (PFL) is still very young, as it was founded just in 2017. Prior to its establishment, the United Football League (UFL) was considered the top football league in the Philippines. In 2016, it was discontinued as the PFL took its place.

Now, the PFL hosts many successful football teams such as the Azkals Development Team and the Kaya F.C.-Iloilo.

While the PFL is the major football league for men, the women also have their own top league: the PFF Women’s League. The league was founded also very recently in 2016. However, different from the PFL, the PFF Women’s League consists mainly of collegiate or alumni teams.

In spite of our leagues’ young ages, their impact on the local football scene has already taken effect, especially in developing athletes well worth the mud on their boots. 

Star athletes

Ever since the resurgence of football in the country, several of our national players have become household names. There was a period where all anyone could talk about were the Younghusband brothers (we know you probably did too at one point). 

Both Phil and James Younghusband became prominent faces of Philippine sports for a time. In fact, Phil Younghusband remains the top scorer of the Azkals with 52 goals in his career. But, we have a lot of new faces on our roster today and they are making names for themselves both locally and internationally. 

Filipina booter Sarina Bolden is one of them. Not only did she score the equalizer in their SEA Games match against Myanmar in their bronze medal campaign, but she also made the shot that sent their team to the 2023 World Cup. 

United City Football Club’s captain Mike Ott is yet another force on the field. Just last May 22, he scored the winning goal that brought his team to win the 2022 Copa Paulino Alcantara. The tournament also named him the winner of the Golden Ball as the top player. 

What’s next?

The great thing about Philippine football is that there is history being written right in front of us, and there are still many opportunities to grow. And if you’re getting as excited as we are, don’t worry. Although the PFL has just recently concluded, there is still much to look forward to in the local scene for the rest of 2022. 

The AFF Women’s Championship this year is going to be held this July right here in the Philippines. Here, we can continue to watch our national players put our flag on the map.

And of course, we will be keeping a close eye on our Filipina Booters as they are on their long journey to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In preparation for this, you can even tune into the men’s edition happening later this year.

Football is the most popular sport around the world, so it’s no wonder competing internationally is a huge challenge. But with major opportunities ahead, this certainly is as good a time as any to start getting hyped up over it.