By Ellson Quismorio
Call it “World Cup Fever,” but Iligan City lone district Rep. Frederick Siao believes the Philippines should begin preparations for a possible slot in the 2026 iteration of the football tournament.
“The Filipino players we hope will be competing at the World Cup of 2026 should be consistently training and playing as teammates five or more years before 2026. It takes that long to truly develop team cohesion, familiarity, body language, and style of play,” he reckoned.
Siao had this to say amid the ongoing 2018 World Cup in Russia as well as the current successes of the country’s national football team, the Philippine Azkals.
“Many of the players we have been seeing in the current Russia 2018 World Cup are in the mid-twenties while the steeled veterans are in their early to mid-thirties,” noted the Mindanao lawmaker.
Using this comparison, Siao said potential Philippine team members to the 2026 World Cup are just waiting to be discovered.
“That means within the next three years, we ought to be searching for them nationwide. Let us also keep an eye on the Under-19, Under-17, and Under-15 boys’ and girls’ teams. They have been making good progress in their training and tournament performance.”
The Philippines has an enduring love affair with another sport–basketball–but the Azkals have proven within the last eight years that the smaller-built Pinoys have what it takes to excel on the international pitch.
Siao pointed out that the Azkals have just qualified for next year’s Asian Football Confederation (AFZ) Asian Cup–the first time in the tournament’s 62-year history.
“It is great for Philippine football that the Azkals, the men’s national team, have qualified for the Asia Cup. Getting to that level took many years,” he said.
But a World Cup might still be an impossible goal for Filipino booters, even if the target tournament is eight years away.
“The road to a FIFA World Cup is long, difficult, and entails huge investments in resources, people, and time. It is for this reason that I chose to help make a difference on the ground by teaming up with Football for Humanity, an international sports charity foundation,” Siao said.
Football for Humanity, he said, has been developing football infrastructure with five-a-side pitches, which are play areas for teens and kids.
“I have been working with them on these five-a-side pitches in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways,” said Siao, a vice chairman of the House committee on tourism.
Held every four years, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup is arguably the biggest athletic spectacle in the world involving a single sport. The qualifying process for a team takes three years.
The 2026 World Cup will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The tournament will be expanded from the current 32 teams to 48 teams, giving more opportunities for others.