Football: Filipinas hail massive crowd support in historic AFF triumph

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2022 12:31 AM

Members of the Philippine Women's National Football Team celebrate after winning the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship match against Thailand in Manila on July 17, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Members of the Philippine Women's National Football Team celebrate after winning the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship match against Thailand in Manila on July 17, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines -- Over 8,000 flag-waving fans bore witness to history on Sunday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, when the Philippine women's national football team cemented their status as the best in the region.

The Filipinas steamrolled Thailand, 3-0, in the final of the 2022 AFF Women's Championship to win their first ever major trophy, the latest achievement in a year that has been filled with them.

For the members of the team, this latest feat was all the more special because it took place on home soil, in front of a packed crowd that cheered their every move and sang for them in frenzied moments of the match.

The Filipinas had clinched a World Cup berth in February in the AFC Women's Asian Cup in India, then won a bronze medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam. To lift a trophy -- their first ever -- in front of over 8,000 fans was a feeling they won't soon forget.

"It was amazing," said skipper Tahnai Annis of the support they received, particularly on Sunday night. "I don't think we would have honestly dominated the way that we did without the fans."

Annis had been instrumental in bringing the crowd to its feet for the first time in the match, as her delivery off a corner kick in the ninth minute was headed in by Jessika Cowart to put the Filipinas ahead.

Katrina Guillou doubled the advantage in the 20th, and Sarina Bolden -- a favorite of the crowd -- put the finishing touches on the victory with a goal at the death.

"It really is a presence to have so much support behind us, and really just to see how the support just kept growing with each game, and it was really amazing to have everyone out there and supporting us and going crazy the whole time. It only lifts us up more," said Annis.

"[The crowd] was amazing," added goal keeper Olivia McDaniel. "The crowd was fantastic, just couldn't have been happier with the day, it was amazing."

McDaniel was the hero when the Filipinas qualified for the World Cup, saving two penalties and converting one against Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup. But that match took place behind closed doors, and so to play in front of a crowd that included her family made this achievement all the more unforgettable.

"Qualifying for our first ever World Cup, nothing will ever beat that feeling. But getting to win a medal, a trophy on our home soil, there's no feeling like it," said McDaniel. 

"It's not comparable. We love to do it for our family, our friends, for you all, it's just such an incredible feeling. I'm so proud of us," she added.

Crowd attendance grew steadily throughout the tournament, and over 3,000 watched on Friday when the Filipinas dethroned Vietnam in the semifinals. There was great clamor for tickets for the final, and plenty of stars were present to watch the Filipinas make history, including fellow national athletes like volleyball's Dawn Macandili, Trina Guytingco of the Gilas Pilipinas Women, Sandro Reyes of the Philippine Azkals, and PBA veteran Alex Cabagnot.

Their impact was palpable, says veteran defender Hali Long, and she gave the fans credit for fuelling the team's energy and spirits in back-to-back matches against two of Southeast Asia's best teams.

"We couldn't have done it without the crowd," said Long, who anchored a backline that secured clean sheets against Vietnam and Thailand in the span of three days. "Being at home was extra special."

"It was the 12th man that we needed, 13th man that we needed to push us, to be able to succeed on the field," she said.