Sports fans can be the most emotional and there were plenty of them on July 17, 2022, at the AFF Women’s Championship 2022 finals where the Philippine Women’s National Football Team defeated Thailand, 3-0. Loud cheers and copious tears of joy came from the Pinoy fans in Rizal Memorial Stadium as the Filipinas were declared the winners. The feat marked the first time that a national football team from the Philippines emerged as champion in Southeast Asia.
One supporter—we will call him J to protect his privacy—got so caught up with the celebration that he performed extraordinary feats that got the attention of match officials and organizers and other fans.
J, himself a footballer for two clubs and a varsity player for his school, would climb up the fence separating the track surrounding the football pitch and the bleachers each time the Filipinas scored a goal. “Kada goal sumasampa ako (sa bakod),” J, 20 years old, told Fullcourtfresh in a phone interview.
What ultimately got the ire of the security personnel was when, after the last goal, the slipper-clad J jumped off the fence and ran along the track, from the end of one goal to another, while waving the Philippine flag.
“Sa sobra ko pong saya, hindi ko po alam ang gagawin ko. Napatakbo ako,” J explained. Soon after, bouncers and match officials came running after him. “May humahabol sa likod at sa gilid ko.” J quickly returned to the bleachers. “Kaya nabato ko ‘yung flag. Akala ko sasaluhin ng mga nasa loob ‘yung flag.”
J came to watch with a big group of team mates who were gifted with free tickets to the AFF Women’s 2022 finals. Prior, J had watched all the games of the Filipinas at Rizal Memorial Stadium, but last July 17 was the first time he got close to the pitch.
For match general coordinator Ariel Serrantes what J did may be considered as “pitch invasion” — an act that the Cambridge dictionary defines as “an occasion when a large number of people at a sports event such as a soccer game run onto the field, usually at the end of the game, in order to celebrate or protest.”
Pitch invasion is certainly a reason for concern, as it can pose as a security risk to the players and everyone else on the field. Throughout football history worldwide, there have been many instances of pitch invasion, especially in Europe, that have disturbed and disrupted the games.
In the case of J, he was eventually found in the crowd by the security personnel. They spoke to J and made him aware of his offense.
While J’s exit from Rizal Memorial Stadium was uneventful, (“Akala ko may mag-aabang sa labas. Walang nangyaring ganon. Safe akong umuwi,” he said.) he woke up to tagged videos and photos of his derring-do on social media. Some of the posts decried his act of throwing the Philippine flag as disrespectful. “Doon ako nahiya sa pagtapon sa flag. Doon maraming nag-ano sa akin,” said J.
What was supposed to be a celebratory evening turned out to be a learning experience for J. “Hindi ko po akalain na ganon mangyayari kagabi.” More than his act of stepping on the track, he is sorrier for unintentionally disrespecting the Philippine flag. “Nagso-sorry po ako sa ginawa kong pagbato ng flag ng Pilipinas,” he reiterated. “Sana patawarin n’yo ako sa mga nagawa ko.”
He was simply overcome with emotion and also wanted to be like the diehard Ultras whom he admires. “Nakikita ko sila sa FB, sobra silang masaya.”
J shouldn’t worry. There were netizens who expressed admiration for his athleticism (“pinakamabilis tumakbo,” “puwedeng kuning runner pang-Olympics,”) and for raising the crowd’s level of delight (“ikaw nagpasaya sa mga tao,”). A number also thought what he did was harmless.
“Pitch intruder pero in a good way naman,” fellow football fan Ronie Chua Padao said of J. “Sa race track naman (siya tumungtong), not on the pitch mismo.”
One official from FIFA Southeast Asia whom Fullcourtfresh talked to said that this incident may be far from being considered a “pitch invasion.” The official said, “Invasion is if a lot of people are involved. Not one or two persons.”
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Photo by Kenneth Panlilio