MANILA, Philippines – Retired professional football player Tiago Mendes recently visited the Philippines and took the chance to prop up the history-making national women’s football team.
The Filipinas, who secured the country a FIFA World Cup berth for the first time, brace for a tough debut in the tournament running from July 20 to August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.
Mendes, a former Portugal international, knows the magnitude of representing one’s country in football’s biggest stage so he provided a few tips.
“They have to play like a team, give everything they have and enjoy the moment because it’s very hard to play in a World Cup,” said Mendes in a recent press conference at the Mansion Sports Bar & Lounge in Makati.
“The World Cup is, for a player, is the best competition I think because you’ll represent your country and you know that your country is seeing you, sharing you, so it’s amazing to play a World Cup.”
Mendes said he’d like to “follow” the Filipinas’ journey as the Portuguese women’s football team will also participate in the competition for the first time in history.
“I know football here is not a big sport,” said the 41-year-old Mendes, who visited here for a LaLiga event to help promote the league and expand the local football community in the country.
“But if a kid, a Philippine kid has this dream, he has to give everything, try to convince his parents to help him because the family needs to be a support and never give up because in the path, in the way, is when you feel happiness,” he added.
“After the end, you will never know that you will reach playing in LaLiga or not, but the path is the most enjoying thing.”
Mendes debuted for the Portugal’s senior team in November 2002 and went on to represent his country until 2015 as he totaled 3 goals and 66 caps – including a stint at the 2010 World Cup in Africa.
Outside the international scene, Mendes has experienced playing in five of the biggest leagues in the world as he appeared in the Primeira Liga (Braga and Benfica), Premier League (Chelsea), Ligue 1 (Lyon), Serie A (Juventus), and LaLiga (Atlético Madrid) throughout his 18-year career at club football level.
The former Atlético midfielder is now an ambassador for the LaLiga and Mendes shared that his experiences as a player helped shape him for his current position.
“It was a dream come true being a football player. I had the luck to play the big leagues, top five leagues,” said Mendes.
“When I went to LaLiga, I was an experienced player at 30 years old and I was in my dream place. When I went to LaLiga, I thought to finish there my career because playing a lot of league matches and great players, every team play very good football and were years I was really really happy.”
LaLiga delegate to the Philippines Almudena Gomez added that the LaLiga will “organize more events” and “support the grassroots” as they hope to assist the country in elevating the sport to greater heights.
“We have grassroots programs coming soon,” said Gomez. “I think more and more Filipinos are being interested in football and obviously the visit of Tiago will encourage Filipinos to engage with LaLiga.” – Rappler.com
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