February 21, 2024

'More love': Olivia McDaniel, Katrina Guillou hopeful of Filipinas' impact on football in Philippines

Art by Royce Nicdao

The Philippine diaspora has given the country an incredible advantage when it comes to sports. With Filipinos spread all over the world, athletes get a taste of high-level competition, while getting the chance to wear the Philippine flag.

Olivia McDaniel and Katrina Guillou, both from the United States, answered that call for the Philippine women's national football team. They hope to give something back to the country when they play in the FIFA Women's World Cup later this month.

"I hope it has an impact on the Philippines in a way that people start to care about the sport more and to give it a bit more love," goalkeeper McDaniel said in an interview with Australia's Optus Sport.

"Maybe more boys and girls in the next generations to come will start to play."

The top sport of the Philippines has always been basketball. Boxing and billiards used to be next, but these have been outpaced by the young fans of volleyball.

It's always been a curious scene for Southeast Asia, a region where football has always been number one.

"I think after this World Cup, I mean even after the year we've had, it started to put us on the map," McDaniel said.

There's still an uphill climb though.

Despite the Filipinas making history for the Philippines by reaching the country's first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup, despite winning the AFF Championship at home, despite gaining the country's Southeast Asian Games football medal in over thirty decades, and despite rising to a program-high 46 in the FIFA women's rankingsthere is still no local broadcaster for the Philippine women's national football team later this month.   

Still, these Filipinas are determined to give pride to the country.

Guillou, a midfielder, shared how she was convinced by her college coach at the UNC Wilmington Seahawks to try out for the national team. It took two years before she got her passport and joined the Philippine camp in November 2021, just a few months before the Filipinas made history in the AFC Asian Cup.

Like McDaniel, she had light skin. And Guillou was all too familiar with some criticism on social media that they were not "Filipino enough" to represent the country.

It's a curious take for some, coming from a country that yells "Filipino pride!" for every successful individual with just a drop of Philippine blood.

And Guillou brushes off that criticism with a stride.

"Growing up I still had that culture. Maybe it wasn't in the Philippines but it was in the US," Guillou explained. 

"And the amount of support I've personally had since joining the team on social media after every win, after any game we've played, just the amount of people who get really inspired to see where the team was and then how far we can potentially go. So I think the entire country is also excited for us. So it's nice to feel that."

What's more important for these Filipinas, is that they inspire the next generation of football playersboys AND girls.

"We definitely want to inspire the young girls back at home. I know when we flew back, having little conversations with them, and then also with their parents and how excited they are for their daughters because one day it can be them," Guillou said.

"I think that's really the goal in itself," McDaniel added.