Though not as popular as basketball, football in the Philippines is still a leading sport. It attracts a wide following and players regardless of gender. There’s a long history of football in the Philippines that dates back to 1985.
The Philippine Football Federation is the governing body. It runs the national league that comprises eight teams from around the country. Local and international clubs participated in the efforts to promote football in the Philippines. FIFA also helped the PFF office upgrade in 2009 to increase football popularity.
Apart from establishing United Football League (UFL) to grow the game’s popularity, the federation also introduced local competitions. Additionally, the Philippine Football Federation introduced the women’s league in 2016.
Furthermore, the Philippines national football team has participated in some successful tournaments in Asia. They have played in minor competitions and also the AFC Asian Club. However, they have never played in a world cup.
History of the Football in the Philippines
Before Lionel Messi, there was Paulino Alcántara Riestra. The footballer has played a crucial role in popularizing football in the Philippines. He scored over 369 goals for Barcelona.
In 1895, English sportspeople introduced football to the Philippines. Filipinos who went to college in China and Hongkong also came back home and taught others. As a result, a few football clubs formed in Manila.
However, these teams fell apart during the 1898 Spanish-American war. The history of football in the Philippines continued after peace returned. Six football teams were formed during this period. They include Manila Sporting, Manila Jockey, and the Paris Clubs. The federation also hosted the first match in Manila to celebrate the Philippine Assembly.
The footballer Paulino Alcántara Riestra also played for the national team in the Far Eastern Championship games. These games began in 1913 and continued until 1934. Playing with the Philippines national football team, the Filipino-Spanish star led them to a win over China in the 1917 games. They also defeated Japan in these Asian games. During this period, the team ranked 26 in the world.
Before its current name, the Philippine Football Federation was known as Philippine Amateur Football Association. The various teams came together to band themselves around this federation.
Football’s popularity continued to increase in the Philippines through the 50s as it was embraced in schools. However, over the years, its popularity started to decrease. As a result, there have been growing efforts to grow the game since the 2000s. These steps included upgrading football and promoting the game in foreign countries.
Historically, the national football team in the Philippines has had various coaches. Alan Rogers and Brian Birch join the list of national team coaches from Britain. Over time, the federation has hired coaches from several nationalities to train the team. The team also included foreign players in 1971 to improve its performance.
National and International Competitions
The hallmark of a thriving sport is the tournaments and competitions around it. Fans flock to the stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams. The Filipino Premier League (FPL) began in 2008, featuring eight clubs from around the country. The PFF or Philippine Football Federation also organized other failed tournaments in 2008.
Additionally, the only champion league, the Philippine Army, was also canceled as the season was concluding. It led to the dissolution of the FPL. Shortly after, the Football alliance held talks with United Football Clubs Association to establish another competition.
The successful talks led to the formation of the United Football League, a semi-professional competition. AKTV sponsored the league’s second season by becoming the official TV broadcaster. It ensured the airing of live matches every week.
2017 saw the formation of the Philippines Football League. It is the highest men’s football tournament level in the country. The league replaced the UFL with teams representing provinces and cities. The six teams from the UFL joined this league, and the PFF added two more.
PFF National Men’s Club Championship was another tournament set to last for ten years. It was after Smart Communications approached Philippine Football Federation for this deal. The first season of the tournament began in March 2011.
Apart from National tournaments, there have also been international games. The PFF accepted to host the Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) in 2012. However, they renamed it to Paulino Alcántara Peace Cup but later changed it to Philippine Peace Cup. It happens in September at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
National team performance
Most recent football fans in the Philippines remember the Azkals ( the National Team) competing in the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010.
In this tournament, the Philippines national football team entered as the underdog. However, they defeated the Vietnam powerhouse team 2-0. This win was in line with the history of football in the Philippines during their first competition in 1913.
In these Far Eastern Games, the Philippines defeated China 2-1 to clinch their first title championship title internationally. They also participated in the same tournament in 1915, but the Republic of China won the title. The national team continued to participate in these games but never won another title before its cancellation in 1938. This FEG cancelation was due to the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Apart from participating in FEG, the Azkals also debuted in the Asian Games in 1954, where they continue to compete. They hosted the inaugural games where the Philippines national football team was in Group A. They lost all their matches against South Vietnam and Chinese Taipei, leading to early elimination.
In the second tournament held in 1958 in Tokyo, the team won against Japan. However, they lost to Hong Kong. They finished last in the standings in the Asian Games held in 1962 in Jakarta and also 1972 after losing each game.
There is a Philippines U-23 which began in 2002, but it has never played in the Asian Games. They have also played in other minor tournaments.
The Azkals have also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 and played in AFC Challenge Cup a few times. According to FIFA, the national men’s team ranks 134. On Average, it has had a ranking of 159, with the highest being 111 and the lowest 195.
Apart from the men’s team, the Philippines women’s national football team has a better ranking at 53. Its average ranking is 77, with the highest being 64 and the lowest 92.
PFF also manages the women’s team, which started in the 1980s. The team has participated in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where recently, in 2022, the team advanced to the semi-finals. They also won the AFF Women’s Championship in 2022 by defeating Thailand 3–0.
Continuing their winning tradition, the women’s team qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This team’s success has continued to increase the popularity of football in the Philippines.
Famous Stadiums in the Philippines
One of the ways the Philipines Football Federation is rebuilding popularity is through upgrading sports facilities. The National Stadium in Philipines is known as Rizal Memorial Stadium. It is also the Venue of the National Team. It has hosted the 1954 Asian Games and United Football League.
This stadium, established in 1934, has a seating capacity of 12 873. Additionally, it prohibits events from being named after an individual.
The other stadium in the Philipines is the Panaad Stadium. It is located in Bacolod. Panaad Stadium is the alternative home for the national team and has a 20,000 seating capacity.
Players also use McKinley Hill Stadium to play football in the Philippines. It was formally known as the Emperador stadium. McKinley Hill Stadium is the main UFL stadium located in Taguig.
The football pitch is all-weather and made with artificial turf. Megaworld cooperation developed this stadium with a 2,000 seating capacity. The University of Makati Stadium is the other national stadium with 7,000 seats. Apart from the football field, the stadium also has a running track and an Olympic-size swimming pool.
It is the first stadium built by a local university. One of the other football stadiums in the Philippines is Iloilo Sports Complex. However, the stadium is still low-quality, failing to meet FIFA standards.
Players can also compete in the largest football stadium in the Philipines, the Philippine Sports Stadium. It has a 25,000 seating capacity. It is also known as the New Era University (NEU) Stadium sitting over 140-hectare (350-acre) in Bulacan.
Who Introduced Football in The Philippines?
English athletes introduced football in the Philippines. Additionally, children who went out to study in China and Hong Kong came back to teach their friends.
Why Is Football Not Popular in The Philippines?
American colonization of the Philipines led to a new favorite sport, basketball. The schools included the game alongside baseball in physical education, apart from football.
When Was Football Introduced in The Philippines?
It was introduced in 1895 by the Englishmen in the Archipelago region. Football in the Philippines goes back over 100 years ago, and it produced the first Asian to play for a European League.