Football: 'Girl dad' Neil Etheridge hails PH women's team

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2022 07:06 PM

The Philippine women's team qualified to the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time in their history. AFC photo. 
The Philippine women's team qualified to the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time in their history. AFC photo. 


MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine Azkals goal-keeper Neil Etheridge, now the father of a baby girl, couldn't hide his pride when asked about the recent achievement of the Philippine women's national football team.

The Filipinas made history in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 earlier this year in India, as they made it all the way to the semifinals. In the process, they punched their ticket to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup that is jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

It marks the first time that the Philippines will play at the highest level of the sport.

"Massive congratulations to them. I've messaged some of them directly already, and congratulated them," said Etheridge. "People can only dream of playing in the World Cup, and the women's team being able to achieve what they did is outstanding."

"It's just a phenomenal achievement, and obviously I wish them well when they go," he added.

For Etheridge, having a daughter only made him even more proud to witness the Filipinas make such a remarkable run in the continental event. He and his wife, Alexandra, welcomed their daughter Manila Elaine on February 13.

Just two weeks earlier, on January 30, the Filipinas had beaten Chinese-Taipei in a heart-stopping penalty shootout to secure their World Cup ticket.

"Obviously for me, bringing up a daughter now, obviously [I'm] very proud," said Etheridge. "I think myself and my wife, we try to empower other women in the world that we're moving forward."

Etheridge said that the Filipinas can go into next year's World Cup with "nothing to fear," as they had already surprised the world by qualifying. The Philippine women's team is ranked 64th in the world, but beat a slew of higher-ranked squads, including regional rival Thailand, en route to the semis. 

"For them to get to where they are, they can go out and play with some sort of freedom when they get there," said the goal-keeper.