- Twenty-year-old Alisha del Campo is a rising star for Philippines
- She has managed 11 international goals since 2017
- Forward aims to fire Malditas to maiden FIFA Women's World Cup in 2023
Scoring a first-ever national team goal is usually a memorable moment, one to savour and cherish for life. For Philippines' young striker Alisha del Campo, however, there were mixed emotions when she entered the field en route to breaking her international duck.
The moment was the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers when the Malditas faced Jordan in April 2017 in the group's top-of-the-standing match. With the qualifying mission already complete, both teams could test new faces in the closing fixture. The Jordanians were five goals up going into stoppage-time when Del Campo, who made her international debut in a 4-0 defeat of United Arab Emirates in an earlier group match, was sent on.
"I was nervous and scared," the 20-year-old DLSU Lady Booters forward told FIFA.com reflecting on the unforgettable occasion. "All I was thinking about at that time was to give my all despite having only a little time to play.
"As I entered the field, my team-mates and coaches cheered me on from the bench. They shouted 'score a goal'. And a few seconds later, amazingly, I did just that. The adrenaline came rushing in and I had never felt so alive."
That was how Del Campo - then a 17-year-old - scored her first international goal. The strike may have proved inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things, but it proved a launch-pad for the youngster.
Del Campo has since scored ten more times for Philippines, notably completing a hat-trick in a 4-0 rout of Singapore in the 2019 AFF Women's Championship as her side reached the last four in the regional showpiece for the first time.
"It was indeed something to be proud of," she said. "Netting the first hat-trick in an international game enhanced my confidence. It made me aware that I can always do better. Of course, the goals were down to the joint efforts by the team. We did a good job as a team and made our first-ever semi-final."
Emergence on the domestic scene
Born in Lopez, Quezon, Del Campo started playing football when she was 11. At the beginning, Del Campo joined her brother's team playing just for "fun" but she quickly became obsessed with the game. She kept training and playing thereafter even after her brother quit football.
She made fast progress and began playing for several local clubs. Then came the turning point of her career in 2017 when she received the national team call-up.
Del Campo kept working hard, establishing her undisputed place for both club and country. Having spent the early years honing her skills and gaining experience, Del Campo’s career really took off.
She scored ten times in helping her university team DLSU Lady Booters to a record 11th title at the 2019 UAAP Football Championship. At national team level, she managed another ten-goal tally in a single year.
"For me, 2019 was literally an 'eat-sleep-training and playing' year," she said. "It was my first year as a student-athlete for De La Salle University and meanwhile, I played for both the university team and national team. It was loads of work."
The reward for her standout performances came in the form of the Pinay Futbolera of the Year - the most notable women's football award in Philippines. Despite her tender age, Del Campo is hailed as a rising star, potentially capable of shouldering the national team goalscoring role for years to come.
Hopes of maiden World Cup
Philippines were once among Asia's elite in the women's game, featuring in the 1981 Women's Asian Cup and winning bronze at the 1985 SEA Games. Despite this fact, however, a major breakthrough in the FIFA Women's World Cup™ qualifying is yet to materialise.
With the global showpiece expanded to 32 teams in the next edition at Australia/New Zealand 2023, however, Del Campo believes that Philippines can make a breakthrough.
"My goal is to help Philippines to the Women's World Cup," said Del Campo. "It has always been a dream of mine to be able to compete against the greatest players from across the world. If we have proper preparation and work under the right guidance, it is not impossible for us to qualify for our first Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
"It [qualifying] would hold great significance for us. By doing that, we can draw more attention from our people and encourage more girls to play football. Overall, we can change the image of the women's game in Philippines.”
* Photos courtesy of PFF and Mia Montayre