Iain Ramsay has represented Philippines during a period of exceptional growth
Azkals challenging China PR for spot in next round of Qatar 2022 qualifying
Ramsay says Philippines can one day feature in the FIFA World Cup
Growing up, Iain Ramsay always dreamt of becoming a footballer. He didn’t quite know where the game might take him, but he knew it could be a joyous and exhilarating ride. And so it has proved.
Now he has played football in seven countries at club level, represented Philippines for five years and featured in two FIFA World Cup™ campaigns. Perhaps most poignantly there was a historic maiden AFC Asian Cup appearance for the Azkals, when they stretched 2015 runners-up Korea Republic to the very limit, and all the while featuring for the national team during an unprecedented growth spurt.
Born and raised in Sydney to Scottish and Filipino parents, Ramsay enjoyed stints as a youngster in Scotland and Wales, before settling into a strong career in Australia’s A-League. A left-footed wing-back by trade - a position invariably challenging for coaches to fill - Ramsay is more than a handy asset with his seemingly boundless energy and eye for goal.
A left-field move to Iran’s Tractor Sazi kick-started Ramsay’s Asian odyssey in 2015, and he has since enjoyed stints in Philippines, Malaysia and now Thailand, where he recently linked up with PT Prachuap FC.
Around the time of his move to Iran, Ramsay debuted for Philippines, a decision that has helped write numerous colourful chapters in his story. He has visited all corners of Asia with its endless cultural diversity, and been part of a historic era that has seen football unthinkably attempt to challenge basketball as the national game.
Remarkably, Philippines didn’t take the field for a World Cup qualifier until 1996, where their opening gamut of matches including a hefty defeat against Sri Lanka.
Fast forward to the present day and things have changed significantly in a relatively short space of time. The Azkals, which translates as 'street dogs', are currently sitting joint-second alongside mighty China PR in their AFC Round 2 qualifying group for Qatar 2022.
Next up is a home match against Guam on 26 March, but second spot and potential progression to the final stage of qualifying is set to be a straight shootout with the Chinese - a contest that will most likely be determined when the Azkals visit the world’s most populace nation in June.
“We are hoping to continue our performances,” Ramsay told FIFA.com from his current home near the beach on the Malay peninsula. “Drawing at home against China was a big result for us, with Marcello Lippi still their coach. That was massive for us and gives us confidence, so let’s see what we can do away.”
In recent years Asia, and increasingly southeast Asia, has become a favoured destination for Australian footballers. At last count, nearly 50 Aussies where playing professionally across the continent, with Ramsay at the vanguard after his move five years ago.
“I always wanted to push myself to go overseas,” Ramsay said. “When I left Australia I decided to have a big shot in Asia, and play as long as I could there, and make the most of my career. Since I moved to Asia I haven’t looked back.”
It is in southeast Asia where Ramsay says Philippines can really make a real mark. The regional AFF Championship draws massive crowds and significant local interest, with the next edition scheduled for late this year.
“Everyone involved in the national team wants us to win the Suzuki Cup (AFF Championship) and it is about time, that is for sure. We are building stronger and stronger and hopefully one day we can achieve it.
“I hope we can help the country qualify for the Asian Cup and win the Suzuki Cup in my time.”
What about qualifying for the World Cup? Ramsay says the development of the past decade means there is reason to put limits on what is possible.
“In terms of grassroots it still has a long way to go. It needs to have youth development going in the right direction. Basketball is the number one sport but eventually we hope football can overtake that, and I think it can.
“Who knows what the future holds in terms of the national team being involved in the World Cup, but I think the country can get there one day, that is for sure.”