From reaching new rankings to scoring a World Cup goal — this is the legacy of the Filipinas’ instrumental head coach, Alen Stajcic.
After spending 17 years of his managerial career in Australia, Alen Stajcic came to the Philippines in 2021 to lead the National Women’s Football Team as head coach. As a former footballer himself, and with his expertise as a manager in Australia’s top leagues, the Filipinas embraced him with open arms.
Under his leadership, the Filipinas reached new heights that the team (or any other national football team, for that matter) had not reached before. In just 20 months, he transformed women’s football in the Philippines in ways we can see — in trophies, in records, in goals — and in ways we may not see just yet — in a bright future for football.
Alen Stajcic’s influence in Philippine football will surely reverberate across generations to come, especially after he spearheaded the Filipinas through these major triumphs that bolstered the momentum for the sport.
A World Cup qualification
The Philippine Football Federation named Alen Stajcic the head coach of the Filipinas just before the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. And they hit the ground running.
The Filipinas advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament (only the second time the team reached the knockouts in their history) where they faced Chinese Taipei. The match went down to the wire, all the way to a penalty shootout, where the Filipinas emerged victorious by one goal.
But it was that very goal that sent the Philippines to the 2023 Women’s World Cup — a first in Philippine history — as their victory guaranteed them a spot in the tournament. This made Stajcic the only Australian-born football coach to qualify for three World Cups.
This World Cup qualification turned the Filipinas into an iconic team in the Philippines.
Rediscovering regional success
Having started his career as head coach for the Philippines’ Women’s Team with a World Cup qualification, he committed to stay on with the team all the way until the top football tournament. And on the way, he picked up many more history-making records.
In the 2021 Southeast Asian Games, the Filipinas won the bronze medal of the tournament. This marked their best result in the regional tournament in 37 years — another historic moment in the books.
Passion for football renewed
The momentum continued, and not just in terms of the team’s successes, but also in terms of how Filipinos embraced the game of football. Passion for the sport began to grow among players and fans alike, and it showed, in the 8,257 fans who flocked to Rizal Memorial to watch the Filipinas at the finals of the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship.
Alen Stajcic led the Philippines to the finals of the tournament — the first time the country entered the finals of any FIFA tournament — after overcoming the defending champions, Vietnam, in the semifinals by a 4-0 margin. The Filipinas faced Thailand in the finals and took a 3-0 victory. This marked the women’s team’s first major title.
Reaching new levels on world rankings
When Alen Stajcic began his post in the Philippines, the women’s team ranked 64th in the world. But throughout the 20 months he spent leading the squad, they steadily started climbing the ladder.
After their victory in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the Filipinas took a big leap, moving 10 places up to 54th in the world — a new peak (at the time).
Right before the kick-off of the Women’s World Cup, the Philippines reached a record ranking anew, rising to 46th in the world. Though this still left them as the lowest-ranked team in their World Cup group, this new level definitely served as a confidence boost right before their first match.
Putting the Philippines on the map
The Filipinas made their debut in the 2023 Women’s World Cup putting up a solid fight against three higher-ranked opponents: World No. 20 Switzerland, World No. 26 New Zealand, and World No. 12 Norway.
Despite losing to Switzerland and Norway, the Philippine side was praised for their incredible defensive efforts. Even when the Filipinas were down 0-6 to Norway in their final match of the tournament, the team still fought all the way to the end, their passion evident in their energy.
These losses, however, do not outweigh the huge feat the Filipinas achieved in the tournament.
The Philippines became the first debutants in the 2023 Women’s World Cup to win a match, and they did so upsetting the co-hosts, New Zealand, with a 1-0 win. Sarina Bolden scored the country’s first-ever World Cup goal in the first half of the match, and the team spent the remainder of the match applying pressure on New Zealand, keeping them from scoring an equalizer.
This triumph put the country, and our national players, on the map, as far as football goes. Having led the team this far, Alen Stajcic will go down in history as one of the individuals who helped usher in a new dawn for Philippine football, and his legacy will be remembered.
Banner image from Sydney FC on Facebook.