Pilipinas / Filipinas / Philippines
- Capital: Manila / Maynila
- Official Languages: Filipino, English
- Recognised Regional Languages: 19 languages
- Nicknames: Azkals (Street Dogs)
- Association: Philippine Football Federation (PFF)
- FIFA Code: PHI
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (2019)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Sixth Place (2018)
- Best AFF Cup Result (Men): Semi-Finals (2010, 2012, 2014 & 2018)
- Best AFF Cup Result: (Women): Fourth Place (2019)
- Best AFC Challenge Cup Result (Men): Finalists (2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 111th (May 2018)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 65th (December 2020 – April 2021)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 195th (September-October 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 133rd (September 2011)
- Most Capped Player: Phil Younghusband – 108 caps
- Top Scorer: Phil Younghusband – 52 goals
The Republic of the Philippines (Republika ng Pilipinas) is an archipelagic country located in the western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. Consisting of about 7,640 islands, the Philippines are situated south of Taiwan / Republic of China, to the east of Vietnam and separated by the South China Sea, northeast of Malaysia’s Borneo territory, and north of the Indonesian archipelago. Originally a Spanish colony that was named after King Philip II of Spain, it was occupied by the Americans in 1898 and became an US commonwealth nation before finally gaining its independence in 1946.
The history of football in the Philippines is surprisingly lengthy with its football association being founded as early as 1907, and the country taking part in the Far Eastern Championship Games football tournament in 1913, making the country one of the stronger teams in Asia at that period of time. They would join FIFA as early as 1930, and would also become one of the founding members of the AFC in 1954. Alas as time progressed throughout the 20th century, the fortunes of the team steadily declined as the professional sports of basketball and boxing became more prevalent and interesting for athletes, and led to a steady ‘talent drain’ from the amateur football game in the Philippines. Resultantly, the country became one of the worst performing sides in the AFC region by the 1990s.
However, a concerted effort was made in the 2000s to improve Filipino football and the results are showing progression as the Philippines slowly improve their ranking position within Asian football. An excellent showing in the 2010 AFF Championship, which famously involved a historic away win over Vietnam, inspired a new injection of confidence in the side, whilst the drive to fully utilise players from the Filipino diaspora living around the world (in Europe especially) also increased the quality within the squad. The culmination of these plans was their qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup – the first major tournament the Philippines had qualified for, and despite losing all three of their group games, the Azkals performed admirably against more established Asian nations. With their first great hurdle now overcome, there is great hope for the future of Filipino football. Combined with the continuous improvement of the top professional domestic league, the Philippines Football League, there is great excitement that the fortunes of the Azkals will maintain its upward trajectory and they’ll become regular qualifiers for future tournaments.
To talk about one of Asian football’s most interesting and steadily improving sides who qualified for their first continental tournament in 2019, we interviewed the excellent Filipino Football. They are an English-language Twitter account and blogsite which reports on all things involving football in the Philippines, focusing on the domestic Philippines Football League, but also the national team. To find their social media accounts and website, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The best-ever player is Paulino Alcántara, and the manager is Simon McMenemy. The Filipino-Spanish Paulino had the all-time goalscoring club record for Barcelona for 87 years [scoring 395 goals in 399 matches for Barça before Lionel Messi broke the record in 2014], and played for Barcelona in two spells during the 1910’s and 1920’s. Scottish manager Simon McMenemy coached the Philippines to the semi-finals, as well as achieving a historic 2-0 win away against Vietnam, in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong could be considered a past cult hero as he was a local player who scored many important goals for Philippines from 2004 to 2013 [the left winger scoring 16 goals in 69 appearances for the national team]. Currently, there are no such cult heros in the most recent national team.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Filipino national side currently?
Either Stephan Schröck, the Filipino-German national team captain with experience playing in the Bundesliga [the 34 year-old midfielder having played for Greuther Fürth, 1899 Hoffenheim, and Eintracht Frankfurt in his native Germany, before coming to play for Filipino champions United City FC], or the goalkeeper Neil Etheridge who is currently playing for Birmingham City in the English Championship and has previously played for Cardiff City in the English Premier League [becoming the first Filipino player to play in the Premier League].
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The Philippines are improving thanks to many Filipino-foreigners that have joined the team, but the interest with the national team in the Philippines has dropped over the last few years. However, we are expecting them to compete in the next Asian Cup [scheduled to be held in 2023 in China].
Q. Are there any Filipino players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Jarvey Gayoso, a young local player [24 year-old left-back or forward who currently plays for the Azkals Development Team in the Philippines Football League] who is the most up and coming talent from the Philippines.
Q. Looking at the Philippines’ international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
The group stage of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup when Philippines won 2-0 against Vietnam away – known as “The Miracle in Hanoi” when Philippines won the match with a mix of local players and ‘Fil-Foreigners’.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
There hasn’t been a particularly standout bad result in recent years.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Filipino national team?
There have been no national team matches at home for a long time now.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
No, not at the moment.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The blue Mizuno-made away shirt [worn during the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup].
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Filipino national team?
To qualify for the World Cup one day!
A massive maraming salamat to Jonny from Filipino Football for answering our questions on the Azkals. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts and website in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.