(Katrina Guillou and her mom, Lorna Rivera Guillou, photos by Karl Tan)
The Philippine Women’s National Team, the Filipinas, can now be considered as a formidable force in Southeast Asian Football for winning the AFF Women’s Championship finals last Sunday in front of 8,257 fans who witnessed history in Manila’s Rizal Memorial Stadium (RMS). A key player who emerged is Katrina Guillou whose mother, Lorna Rivera Guillou, is a Filipina, and father, Yves Guillou, is French. The US-born Katrina plays for the Swedish club Pitea IF.
Standing at 5 feet and 2 inches tall, some may think that Katrina’s height is a disadvantage. But, based on her performance at the AFF Women’s tournament, it’s clear that height is not a factor. Actually, it’s the little things one can do to help the team and to contribute in whatever way possible that pave the way to success.
Katrina’s feistiness on the pitch and her tireless efforts—on and off the ball—were nightmares for most of the Filipinas’ opponents. During the AFF Women’s finals, Katrina scored the Filipinas’ second goal in the 19th minute with a left-footed tap-in, before the team ended with a 3-0 score line against Thailand. This AFF Women’s Championship came just months after the Filipinas’ qualification to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the bronze medal at the recent South East Asian Games.
Asked about how they’ve developed as a team since the SEA Games, Katrina replied, “I think we’ve grown into our style of play. We know how we want to move around the ball, on and off of it.” She also said that the time that team has spent together played a crucial role in having a better understanding amongst themselves. From the beginning their goals were clear: 1) to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and, 2) to continue to inspire younger generations to play the game of football.
Katrina knows how guidance and support foster development in young athletes. She enumerates three people who shaped her early football career: one is her youth coach, Coach Jones, and the other two are her older brothers who also played the sport.
Katrina shared, “I remember always wanting to follow my two old brothers around. One of them told my mom, at like three years old, ‘If Katrina can follow directions, she can go run around with us.’ So, you would see pictures of me like standing right behind them, listening to whatever they said just to be able to play with them.”
When she got older, she found role models in footballers in European clubs. The attacking midfielder is a big fan of Manchester United, and then Real Madrid. She said, “I do like Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane. I know they are both center-backs, but there is something about defenders that I just really like.” It may come as a surprise to many, but Katrina’s defensive-mindedness and calmness with the ball reflect the traits that she admires in the World Cup winners.
The Filipinas had little local support when the AFF Women’s Championship 2022 started. But as as the team kept getting one win after another, the numbers of attendees at RMS started increasing. Katrina expressed her joy at seeing the crowd at their final game against Thailand — definitely another check in the Filipinas’ growing list of accolades. She said excitedly, “We wanted to win medals for the country, so it’s nice that it’s starting to pay-off with all the hard-work. And now we need to keep setting new goals and keep breaking the barriers.”
While the presence of a crowd is definitely a boost, the Filipinas also have their own support system. Katrina shared that inside the dressing room, team captain Tahnai Annis is the voice of the team, alongside defender Hali Long and local standout, goalkeeper Inna Palacios. To psyche themselves prior to the matches, they have a playlist that gets them all pumped up.
Katrina’s other secret to her amazing play at this AFF Women’s tournament? She had her mom Lorna cheering from the RMS grandstand. Lorna, who left the Philippines in the 1960s at the age of 10, remains a true-blue Pinoy and is, indeed, as loyal and caring as any Filipino mom could be. For instance, when Katrina suffered a concussion last year while playing for Pitea IF, Lorna was at Katrina’s side preparing her daughter’s favorite Filipino comfort food: pancit, lumpia and sinigang.
To the young girls and women who want to play for the national team one day, Katrina has this important message, “Honestly, never give-up. I know I said this in my post-match interview… but I’m 28 and I’m on this stage right now. It’s never too late. As long as you just keep working, everything will sort itself out.”
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