The quality of conversation on message boards often gets derided, and some of that is with good reason. Twitter accounts like @MessageBoardGeniuses do a good job of spotlighting some of the absurdity that sometimes takes place in those forums. But, if you can sift through enough of the dross, there is sometimes some gold. And with the Philippines’ women’s soccer team, a message board (and in particular, two notable participants on it) wound up playing a key role in constructing the team currently competing at its first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup.
That team picked up their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup victory Wednesday with a 1-0 win over hosts New Zealand. And its roster features one player born in the Philippines and 18 born in the U.S., and the U.S.-born players are largely there thanks to the efforts of a couple of those message board figures. Yahoo’s Henry Bushnell explored that in a pair of stories over the past week:
In 2012, the Philippines WNT wanted to hold a California tryout. It needed fields. Up stepped a local soccer coach named Clint McDaniel. His Filipina wife, Lindy, helped w/ logistics.
Now their daughter, Olivia McDaniel, is a national hero:https://t.co/kDqkSaY3Zh
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) July 25, 2023
The Philippines will debut at the World Cup tonight with 1 homegrown player and 18 born in the U.S.
This is the story of the team's Filipino American architects — two Midwesterners who met on a message board:https://t.co/dZVQpqFaQT
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) July 20, 2023
That second story is particularly notable for illustrating how the message board connection (on usapangfootball.proboards.com) came to play a prominent role here. Some highlights from it:
Mark Mangune would send the DMs after mundane days at his telecommunications job in Michigan. Sofia Harrison received hers on Instagram in 2017 and found it “a little sketchy.” She was a freshman at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Mangune was a self-described “random dude” who’d spend idle time on message boards — until, that is, the Philippines Football Federation gave him a title.
Officially, in 2012, Mangune became the PFF’s volunteer “liaison and recruitment officer.”
Unofficially, he became an architect of America’s other Women’s World Cup team.
…In interviews, a few of the team’s Filipino American stars acknowledged skepticism. So did Mangune and Butchie Impelido, a Chicagoland IT worker and fellow architect of the Philippines women’s national team pipeline.
But skepticism didn’t stop them from scanning college rosters for Filipino-looking faces, or listening for Filipino-sounding accents at youth soccer events.
…Mangune’s niche curiosity drew him toward the women’s team. His obsession led him to the “scouting” section of message boards, which is where he’d post about potential Filipino American players; which is how Impelido found him and why Nierras wanted to talk to him.
Here’s a look at the homepage of that board:
Bushnell’s piece from Tuesday has more details on how Impelido (who got into this after convincing his daughters to try out for the national team beginning in 2005, and then started scouting other American-born players with connections to the Philippines) found Mangune, and how the two of them wound up convincing players (including Sarina Bolden, who scored the crucial goal against New Zealand, the first-ever World Cup ) that this was worth their time:
Impelido, a Philippines-born U.S. immigrant, still remembers the early days, in the 2000s, when the team would train on choppy grass fields and often share them with track-and-field athletes. “You had to make sure the javelin players are not throwing,” he told Yahoo Sports with a laugh. “You could see the holes on the field.”
Now, he’s seeing history.
He also still remembers scouring nascent websites and message boards, such as usapangfootball.proboards.com, where in 2012 he found Mark Mangune. Mangune, a soccer obsessive who’d moved from Davao City to Michigan as a little boy, would post lists of Filipina American prospects, which Impelido forwarded to the Philippines Football Federation. The PFF then made Mangune a volunteer “liaison and recruitment officer.” He’d cold-call college coaches, inquiring about players’ Filipino heritage, and DM prospects on Instagram after mundane days at his telecommunications job. He’d invite them to the California tryouts — and in the early days, many would ignore him; some suspected a prank.
But over time, hundreds jumped at this unexpected opportunity. Mangune and Impelido, with help from the PFF and others, ultimately built a scouting database of “maybe 800 girls,” Mangune estimates. And one of them was Bolden.
Important contributions sometimes come from unlikely places. And this certainly isn’t the only case of showing that, with several stats-minded figures who got their starts on various message boards now working in front offices across leagues, and with a couple of Reddit figures even breaking news. And this is perhaps more possible than usual on niche topics, with many of the people inclined to spend their time there actually investing time into research instead of just tossing off the takes we often see on collegiate message boards. But it’s still fascinating to read about the role message boards and figures on them played in building this Philippines team.