Women’s Month Series: Inna Palacios on Women in Sports
Women are now being acknowledged today, but are still far from being equal with men. Women are deemed for being inferior and soft, stereotyped as fragile individuals, and selfless women responsible for mainly home chores. While this notion sparked in the past, Filipinas tackle all platforms to share their triumphs and success stories.
Last January 2022, The Philippines Women’s Football team, Filipinas, raised our flag on the world stage. The Filipinas made history with a first-ever semifinal finish; earned a World Cup berth in the AFC Asian Cup in India, qualifying for the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Today, women continue to feel empowered to empower others as they consistently garner achievements for our country. Read as Inna Palacios, member of the Filipinas Philippine Football Team, shares her experience as a professional athlete in this male-dominated sport.
Can you recall the day when you started playing football?
“My brother and I have always been such active kids. We were always on the streets playing. My parents would enroll us in different sports growing up. During fifth grade, I was introduced to football, not knowing how to play or what the rules were, I just enjoyed playing. And that moment I stepped on the field, I knew I wanted to play this sport like I never wanted to leave anymore. I evolved as a player and started seeing the opportunity in playing this sport, such as free education and scholarships, meeting so many people, and going to so many places.
There’s just something about it that just felt so freeing. I could express myself by being rough in the field and that no one would get mad at me because it’s a physical sport; what I enjoy the most is the community, the family, and having a team.”
What were your struggles as an athlete?
“I think the main struggle would be your frustrations. You’re getting frustrated, not winning games, getting injured. There are a lot of ups and downs.”
How did you overcome those struggles?
“[Realizing that] football is not just about winning and losing those games, you build character. It molded me as a football player and into the person, I am now. The values and lessons that you learn from playing; it’s life-changing.
There will be a point you’ll feel like quitting, that you’re not worth it, but you can set goals for yourself. It’s all part of the plan, and you need to rise above all adversities. Struggling physically and mentally, but without those struggles, I don’t think I would grow into the person I am right now.”
When you mentioned rising above adversities, how did it feel to overcome a challenge to win and make history for the Philippines?
“It’s indescribable. It’s like you’re dreaming in awe because I think it’s every football player’s dream to be in the world cup. Getting the chance to be there and realize that you’re from the Philippines, a third-world country with less experience, unlike the other teams, but you find ways to make your dreams into a reality and make history. It’s just so fulfilling.
All of the hardships, the journey, at that moment, everything made sense. It’s the reward for every sacrifice you made.
I can say nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I just wish that I’ll continue to experience this and inspire more girls through the play and empower women to believe in themselves more.
What we do is for women and future generations; what we’ve achieved right now will open doors for more opportunities and for women to believe that they can make it and succeed even more.
That’s why we’re fighting so hard because we want people to support and invest in this sport. We want people to play it. We want people to believe that you’re going to get somewhere playing football.”
Do you think people need to invest and support more women football players?
“Yes. Invest and shift the focus more to women’s sports in general. Many of our prestigious awards are won by women, and that goes to show that we’re overcoming stereotypes. Gone are the days of the mentality of women are supposed to be in the house and doing all the chores. Women strive. And when women strive, they try so hard that they won’t stop unless they get what they want, dream of, or deserve. And yes, we need so much support because we want the sport to keep growing.
We also need sustainability in this sport and not just in football, in anything because the sports that we play and win bring us globally and bring us to the world maps.
We always lack resources no matter what. Lack of resources is always a challenge to any team. Although for a team like us to work this hard and achieve this much with little resources, we achieved something big. Imagine how much more other women can achieve with enough support.”
Were there changes in terms of coverage and opportunities when you won that game?
“After the tournament, we felt that more people were supporting us. More people were getting involved, more people were watching us, and that felt great because we needed that extra push. It’s nice to know that we’re getting recognized, and people know that the [Philippine] women’s football team is doing well in the tournament and will compete in the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world. It’s bigger than the Olympics people watch the world cup and imagine your flag there, singing your National Anthem. I think that’s something that I can’t wait to experience. That’s going to be monumental, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in my playing career.
I hope that the support continues because we need it. We need people to believe in our costs and what we’re fighting. We’re representing the Philippines on the world stage, you feel so connected to our roots, and this way, it gives us hope. I want football to be a symbol of hope for people to rise above anything in life.”
What do you think is the barrier for women in playing football?
“I think it’s the opportunity to play and to be seen. It only happens when you get to play during tournaments. We rarely have those and not everyone has the opportunity to attend these games.
We have many technically skilled players, but we need to see them play. We need to give them that venue where people can see them, especially the recruiters to bring them here to Manila, where the scholarships mostly are for football, and provide them free education.
We can’t sustain the teams here because we don’t have that many tournaments to play in or on how to bring in some cash back to the team. We need to work on the whole process to make it sustainable.”
Why do you think that women seem to be unnoticed in sports?
“Yeah, that’s a sad reality because sports is just a male-dominated industry from the very beginning. If you’re a woman, you have to prove and work twice as hard or even three times harder to show them that you’re also capable of doing what the counter gender or teams are doing. I think that’s also something that we need to change. It starts with the mentality. It starts with the culture. It starts with the leaders and future leaders of this country, not just here in the Philippines but all over the world.
Sports are sports. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male; you play the same sport; you give the same quality.
It’s a struggle that you have to constantly prove yourself to others that you’re better than them instead of just doing what you can right now and knowing that you’re already good. They make you feel the need for extra validation for them to respect you.
Women don’t have to prove anything, but we’re already proving something. And I’m so proud that the women’s team is consistently delivering results. I hope that we just continue to grow with the support that we deserve.”
What’s your message to other women football players and aspiring athletes?
Dream big. Just work as hard as you can to make that dream a reality because it is always possible. And it’s worth fighting for. Find the purpose of why this is so important to you, why your dream is so important, and then stick to that. Always find purpose in everything you do, because that will push you to your limits more than you ever think you could.
Be brave. It doesn’t matter what they say. Doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how, how many times you get back up and fight for it all over again.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.