Participation at Women's World Cup a source of pride for UAE's Filipino community

Around 700,000 Filipinos live in the UAE, which has become home to a number of amateur football clubs

Philippines' Sarina Bolden, left, celebrates her goal that gave her team a 1-0 win over co-hosts New Zealand at the 2023 Women's World Cup. AP
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The Philippines football team made history at the Women's World Cup when they beat co-hosts New Zealand in only their second-ever match at a global finals.

It was the Philippines' first victory at either a men's or women's finals.

After losing their opening match to Switzerland, Sarina Bolden's first-half header secured a famous victory and leaves the South-East Asian country with a chance to progress from Group A if they can beat Norway in their final match on Sunday.

While football takes a backseat to basketball in the Philippines, in the UAE, the country's participation at a World Cup has become a huge source of pride for Filipinos.

Around 700,000 Filipinos live in the UAE, which has become home to a growing number of amateur football clubs.

Pinoy FC was founded in Dubai 12 years ago and aims to promote solidarity among Filipinos in the country who share a common love for football. With more than 400 members, Pinoy FC play competitive and social matches and host annual tournaments against clubs from other Asean countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, and China.

In Abu Dhabi, Pinoy FC's sister club, Philippine Football Club, is another dedicated to UAE-based Filipino football enthusiasts and boasts around 100 members.

These social clubs provide a growing platform for the Filipino football diaspora, with many hoping to follow in the footsteps of their 2023 heroes.

Speaking about the Philippines' achievement at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a Pinoy FC representative said: “This is a historic moment for all Filipinos on our first participation in the world’s most prestigious women’s football event, the World Cup.

"Of course, we are looking forward to a good performance from our team. This is a giant leap for Philippine football and we hope this will ignite interest in football, especially for women. Laban Filipinas!”

A representative for Philippine FC said seeing their compatriots at the Women's World Cup was "a dream come true for all Filipinos".

"We very well know what the team has to go through just to get there. Whatever happens with the matches, win or lose, we support them all the way. It is with great honour and pride hearing our national anthem being sung in the grandest stage of football and all of us know that we belong there.”

This year's World Cup is the largest tournament in women's football history, having expanded from 24 teams from the 2019 competition. The number of women's football teams continues to grow worldwide and that trend can also be seen in Dubai.

Founded in 2022 by four coaches including former Scotland player Lauren McMurchie and Emirati Hind Al Zarouni, Onyx FC is the UAE’s first fully owned female football club.

All coaches hold Uefa licenses with the number of social players already at 215 from over 50 countries.

In addition to social football, the club is involved in the UAE Football Association’s 11-a-side league. Onyx also has a girls' academy for children of all abilities aged 4 to 18.

Jayzel Delos Santos, a Dubai-based real estate assistant from the Philippines who plays with Onyx FC, said seeing her country play at the World Cup had given her "so much pride" and it was great to watch the games with her teammates.

“It took me years to find a women’s football group so it’s nice to be in another country and find people that share the same interest," she said. "I get to play with them on Mondays and was able to watch the World Cup with them over the weekend.”

Updated: July 30, 2023, 4:22 AM