By JOE LISTER, Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Sarina Bolden rose above two defenders and headed the ball toward the goal. New Zealand keeper Victoria Esson bobbled and fumbled it as it crossed the goal line.
Bolden pumped her fist as she sprinted to the sideline to celebrate with her teammates after scoring the first-ever goal at the Women’s World Cup for the Philippines, one that also made her team the first of 2023 edition’s eight newcomers to claim a win. It was 1-0, but that’s all the Filipinas needed to beat the Football Ferns.
“I’ll remember this moment forever, for the rest of my life,” Bolden said after the match. “I’m so happy to be a part of it,”
The 27-year-old forward didn’t have a straightforward path to representing the Philippines. Born in Santa Clara, California, Bolden spent her early sporting years playing for American academies.
Bolden joined the Philippines national team in 2018 while she was playing for Loyola Marymount. She would go on to sign her first professional club contract in 2019 with Sandvikens IF in Sweden. After departing Sweden, she spent time playing for teams in Taiwan, the United States, Japan and now Australia with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
“Just getting to experience all those kinds of different styles, I think it’s made me into the soccer player that I am today,” Bolden said.
The reaction to Bolden’s goal was instant. The large contingent of Filipino fans standing behind their team’s bench erupted as the New Zealand fans around the stadium let out cries of shock.
After the match, the Filipinas walked the length of the touchline behind the technical area in Sky Stadium, where thousands of fans celebrated the win as the players took a bow in front of them.
“I’ve just been learning that Filipinos are literally everywhere,” Bolden said. “I think we’re a great representation of what Filipinos are and we’re far and wide, But to culminate everyone together and to get everyone on the same page is amazing.”
Since she committed to the Philippines, Bolden has played in 37 international matches and scored 22 goals.
This isn’t the first time that Bolden has been her country’s star, either. In her senior international debut for the Philippines, Bolden scored the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Jordan in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. In the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, she scored the last kick in a penalty shootout against Taiwan that earned the Philippines a spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Joe Lister is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.