AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS — As a former football player and a Filipina herself, 180 Amsterdam Executive Creative Director Katrina Encanto reflected on the Philippines’ recent World Cup debut with insights on leadership, sports, and the role of young women in both courts. As the Filipinas, the Philippine’s first women’s national team, made history for Filipinos, discussions around women in sports opened and expanded across the country, and among the many Filipino communities across the globe.
In an exclusive piece with adobo Magazine, Katrina explores the insights on leadership that are intimately entwined with the values that come with being an athlete and team player, and the lessons that are hidden from girls when they are excluded from the sport. The piece also calls on everyone to support a campaign for the Games Of Our Lives foundation that 180 crafted to support women in the football field, and ultimately, their journey in and out of the pitch.
The Filipinas deserve all our admiration.
Not just for making it to the World Cup.
Not just for beating the hosts on their homeland.
Not just for scoring our first World Cup goal.
They deserve our admiration because they achieved all this despite all the obstacles that could have held them back. Because just like every female football team in the world, they play on an uneven pitch made more challenging by a lack of support, funding, and belief. Up until a day before the World Cup kicked off, it was still a question whether their games even deserved national attention.
We are, without a doubt, all so grateful for this moment. But as football legend Abby Wambach said, “you can be grateful and [still] demand for what you deserve”.
What the Filipinas represent are three things worth believing in: the Philippines, football, and the female spirit. They symbolize our qualities on our best day: our tenacity, resilience, and the strength we carry when we come together as a team. Never backing down and always defying any odds that underestimate us. And in three games, they showed the potential of our women, if only we could just get to the ball.
The truth is, for every Filipina who makes it on the stage, there are millions of girls who are still excluded from any pitch at all. From gender bias to cultural beliefs to a lack of mentors and training, there are many hurdles that prevent girls from playing sports. More practically, unless a girl has access to a respectable club, equipment, and lessons, all of which aren’t available to the greater population, then it becomes challenging to continue playing. This, in addition to unequal pay between male and female athletes, makes it difficult for people to consider sport as an activity worth pursuing for girls.
And why does this even matter?
Well, it matters because any inequality that is highlighted on the pitch is only reflective of that in real life. Much more, it has bigger implications on the leaders we see in society.
A study by EY suggests that sport participation as a child is key to making young female leaders rise. In fact 94% of female CEOs have played sports. But because girls still don’t get the same playing opportunities as boys do, they are excluded from the valuable lessons learnt through sport that turn players into leaders. Lessons that girls need the most, especially when their confidence drops off as they become teenagers.
This isn’t just about filling the top roles in a company. This is about getting access to a whole curriculum from sport that primes people to lead, in whatever path they choose to pursue in life. And whilst some may argue that the Philippines is still deemed to be the most gender-equal country in Asia, the truth is that there is still a lot of inequality when it comes to wages, especially in lower rungs of society, as well as a prevailing belief that Filipinas don’t deserve to be in the workplace.
As a former footballer for the University of the Philippines, I know that the best leadership course I’ve ever taken wasn’t within the four walls of an office.
There were no fancy suits, no big motivational speaker names, no complex jargon.
Through daily drills on pot-holed pitches, wins and warmups, losses and locker room chats, bunking with a team on boats and classroom floors, I learned all the lessons that I needed to navigate the often uneven pitch of life.
That you don’t get to that millisecond of victory without the hours of hard work.
That we only make progress if we pass the ball as well as demand it.
That pressure means you are in the game and can actually make a difference.
That we make every touch count, not just for ourselves, but for everyone that’s come before and will come after us.
That you are always playing a bigger game than the one on the pitch.
At 180, we’ve been working with a new team, She Has Fire created for the NGO Game of Our Lives, to reveal the lessons that are hidden from girls worldwide when they are excluded from sport. To launch it, we created a new football kit, where ten lessons are concealed within the design of the pattern. These lessons are endorsed by Danish footballer and doctor Nadia Nadim, and supported by a number of renowned international footballers including Wang Shuang (China), Nikita Parris (England), Ary Borges (Brazil), Gemma Bonner (England), Savannah de Melo (USA), Uchenna Kanu (Nigeria), Carson Pickett (USA) and Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa), among others.
We’re sending the kit to female footballers around the world, including the Philippines, to affect change at a grassroots level and amplify our message that sport needs to be deemed as an essential lesson to every girl. Through the Game of Our Lives platform, you can play a role too, by signing up to Nadia’s team and giving time to the cause.
We need to unlock the potential of every girl, and it starts by getting them on the pitch. After all, every girl who plays becomes a woman who leads.
About the author
Katrina Encanto is an Executive Creative Director at 180 Amsterdam. Throughout her journey from the Philippines, to Italy, Thailand, the UK and the Netherlands, she has led different teams from around the world to highlight gender bias at a young age, champion the goodness of dirt, and celebrate the value of progressing as an athlete. She played football for the University of the Philippines.