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Playing the global game: Filipino athletes around the world

You’ve seen the headlines: Kai Sotto gets ready for the NBA draft.

Lately, the news and updates on Kai’s potential entry to the top basketball league in the world have been all the rage. And we totally get it—it’s exciting to imagine finally seeing Filipino athletes making it big-time.

But while Kai’s journey has been nothing short of amazing thus far, there are many other talented Filipino athletes who have already made their mark on the global game. From volleyball players to race car drivers to tennis players, we have athletes everywhere. Probably even more than you know.

Here are just some Filipino athletes making our world-class talents known all over the globe.

Japan

Basketball player Thirdy Ravena

Arguably one of our most well-known athletes competing overseas is former-Blue Eagle Thirdy Ravena. The Japanese B.League team San-En NeoPhoenix signed Ravena in 2020 and is now under a multi-year contract. If that doesn’t tell you he’s getting accustomed to life in Japan, maybe his hair will.

Other Filipino basketball players also competing in the B.League include Kiefer Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Kobe Paras, and Ray Parks.

Volleyball player Jaja Santiago

Volleyball player Jaja Santiago also landed a spot in Japan’s V.League with the Ageo Medics. She first joined the team in 2018 and renewed her contract in 2020, where she and her team went on to win the Division 1 title. 

Filipino athletes must certainly love Japan because we have more volleyball players in the V.League too, such as Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo.

Golfer Yuka Saso

LPGA champion Yuka Saso previously represented the Philippines in her golfing career, but in 2021 decided to retain her Japanese citizenship moving forward. While still bearing the Philippine flag, she became the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open in 2021. We’ll miss you, Yuka. 

England

Racer Bianca Bustamante

Whoever said girls can’t drive obviously never met Bianca Bustamante. One of only 18 drivers from all over the world competing in the London-based W Series, she is one of the youngest female faces on the motorsport scene today. 

Racer Eduardo Coseteng

Filipino racing driver Eduardo Coseteng currently competes in the Formula 4 British Championship with Hitech GP. Now in his second season, he started strong with finishes in the top 5 in the first round. We love seeing our flag stickered onto that car. 

Football player Neil Etheridge

And of course, we can’t forget Neil Etheridge. Though he is half-English and half-Filipino, he has been representing the Philippines since 2008. He became the first Filipino to ever play in one of the top football leagues in the world: The English Premier League. All the Filipino kids’ dreams of playing with of the best football players in the world are alive in Niel Etheridge.

USA

Esports athlete Jake Puchero

Jake Puchero, better known as Xmithie in-game, is a Filipino-American eSports athlete. He’s earned a gold medal with Netherlands-based Team Liquid in the NA LCS Spring Playoffs and has also played with the US-based Immortals. 

Chess player Wesley So

Chess Grandmaster Wesley So is a three-time US Chess Champion. The Filipino-born American has earned multiple titles, including the 2016 Grand Chess Tour title. in 2017, he ranked world number 2 on FIDE’s rating list. Those of us who have seen The Queen’s Gambit get the hype. 

Australia

Basketball player Kai Sotto

The first Filipino athlete competing in Australia that would come to mind for many of us is probably Kai Sotto. In case you didn’t know, he competed for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian National Basketball League before he declared for the NBA draft this year. Here’s hoping that we can tab him under USA real soon.

Tennis player Lizette Cabrera

Lizette Cabrera may be an Australian professional tennis player, but her parents are both from the Philippines. Only 24 years old, she’s reached a career-high singles ranking of 119 and has 5 ITF singles titles. Anyone else manifesting an Australian Open finals matchup between Lizette and Alex Eala?

Thailand

Football player Michael Falkesgaard

You might run into Michael Falkesgaard in Thailand, as he now plays in the Thai League 1. Representing the Azkals, he was the Philippines’ goalkeeper in many international tournaments like the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Now, he plays for Bangkok United and has a total of 33 clean sheets with the team.

There must be something in the water over in Thailand. Many other Filipino athletes compete with Falkesgaard in the Thai League 1 too, such as Kevin Ingreso, Iaian Ramsay, Patrick Reichelt, and Daisuke Sato.

Cambodia

Football player OJ Porteria

Filipino athlete OJ Porteria has played football everywhere. Born in the United States, he played in the development team of D.C. United Academy before playing in the Philippines Football League and the Cambodian Premier League. This year, he will be playing in the Cambodian Premier League team Kirivong Sok Sen Chey this year. Talk about a jet setter. 

Serbia

Basketball player Jack Animam

SEA Games multi-medalist Jack Animam plays professionally in the First Women’s Basketball League of Serbia. Playing for Radnički Kragujevac, the former NU Lady Bulldog debuted with 20 points for the team’s win. 

Canada

Tennis player Leylah Fernandez

You may have heard of her, and you might have even rooted for her before. Leylah Fernandez is a Canadian tennis player whose mother is half-Filipino. Only 19 years old, she has already played in the four major Grand Slams, even making it to the quarterfinals match of this year’s French Open. Here’s to manifesting a matchup between her and Alex Eala now too.

If you’ve come to the end of this and thought to yourself, “that was a lot of names“, we can assure you that we’ve only scratched the surface.

So whether Kai Sotto makes it or not (fingers crossed!), you can certainly take pride in the many other world-class names we have competing all across the globe.