Football: Flanigan hopes to give fans more reasons to sing

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2022 07:29 PM

Isabella Flanigan (14) of the Philippines in action against Singapore in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship in Manila on July 6, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Isabella Flanigan (14) of the Philippines in action against Singapore in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship in Manila on July 6, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines -- Isabella Flanigan couldn't quite believe it at first when she learned that the Ultras Filipinas were singing her name during the matches of the Philippine women's national football team.

"When it first happened, I didn't actually know it was for me," said Flanigan, the team's 17-year-old wunderkind who emerged as a crowd favorite during the 2022 AFF Women's Championship.

Flanigan scored the Filipinas' opening goal against Singapore in the group stage, a cheeky chip that propelled the team to a 7-nil triumph. Afterward, the Ultras at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium serenaded her, singing her name to the tune of "Give It Up" by KC & The Sunshine Band.

"My dad was like, 'Bella, they were cheering for you.' No, they weren't. When I found out they were, I was like, 'oh no.' I couldn't believe it," Flanigan said. 

The teenager continued to feature for the Filipinas in the tournament, starting against Vietnam in the semifinal and coming close to scoring a couple more times. She did not find the back of the net again but still received a standing ovation when she was subbed off in the second half. 

Flanigan said to receive such great support from the Filipino fans is "a dream come true."

"This is why everyone does this," she said. "It's amazing to be able to say that I could do it. I'm hoping to keep showing the crowd that I can do it, that we can do it."

"We'll just keep pushing and bringing more trophies home," she added.

Like the rest of her teammates, Flanigan was in awe of the support they got in the competition, particularly during the final where over 8,000 fans packed the Rizal Memorial. They were treated to a show by the Filipinas, who stunned Thailand, 3-0, to win their first ever international trophy.

Flanigan came in as a late substitute and later saw the fans firsthand as the team went on a victory lap around the pitch. When she and her teammates left the stadium, she was once again serenaded by the Ultras as they entered their bus.

"I definitely think the fans helped raise the morale of the team and allowed us to keep pushing through the terrible, seven consecutive games that were crazy on our bodies," said Flanigan.

"I think the fans' energy definitely impacted our play style and it was amazing to hear everyone cheering. It was amazing," she added.

There will be little time to rest for Flanigan: she along with Chantelle Maniti are expected to play for the Philippines in the AFF Under-18 Women's Championship, which will take place in Indonesia starting on July 22. 

Flanigan is hopeful that she can carry the momentum of their historic win in the AFF Women's Championship to Palembang.

"It's definitely going to be exciting. Change of pace, obviously. But I'm honored and excited to represent the country twice and hopefully try and bring home another medal, another trophy for the country, so we'll see," she said.