Green gallery: Shai Del Campo on ‘remarkable’ year of growth

Participating in the college division of the UAAP is already a feat in itself, but getting ample amounts of playing time in one’s first year is impressive. Majority of the coaches decide to rely on their veterans at crucial stages of the season, while the rookies tend to remain on the bench, waiting for an opportunity to prove themselves.

However, DLSU Lady Booter Shai Del Campo’s first year of donning the Green-and-White was a special case in itself as she won two prestigious awards—Rookie of the Year and Best Striker, en route to securing the three-peat for La Salle in UAAP Season 81. The development and growth for the star athlete did not stop there, as she asserted her brilliance in the international scene as well; she has been an instrumental piece for the national team, as she contributed 10 international goals in a span of one year.

Through all her hard work and determination, Del Campo garnered the coveted 2019 Pinay Futbolera of the Year honor—beating out national teammates Inna Palacios, Sara Castañeda, and Quinley Quezada—as awarded by Pinay Futbol, an organization at the forefront of supporting local women’s football.

“This award wasn’t really my goal the whole year. However, what motivated me throughout the year, playing for La Salle or playing for the country…was to change the image of women’s football in the Philippines—aspiring to make my countrymen proud,” she explains.

Embracing a winning culture

Del Campo arrived at Taft Ave. as a rookie from De La Salle–Santiago Zobel School, looking to contribute to a team that had already won 10 UAAP championships prior to her arrival. The pressure was immense coming into Season 81, knowing that the Lady Booters had just won back-to-back titles. Despite that pressure, Del Campo did not fold—rather, she embraced it.

As a new member of the squad, the promising striker was not focused on individual honors. Instead, she concentrated more on adjusting to college life, raising her level of play on the pitch, and molding into the formidable force the Green-and-White needed up front.

“It was hard for me to adjust since it was also my first year in college…Throughout the year, the [individual] awards weren’t really something I aimed for, but rather improving myself,” Del Campo conveys. Conditioning her mind to focus on being a better player eventually paid dividends in helping the team achieve unparalleled success.

Ultimately, Del Campo ended her first year with the Lady Booters with a trophy to her name. “Throughout the season, I made sure to focus on one thing: to get that championship. The feeling of getting that title is definitely the best feeling in the world,” she shares.

Unexpected recognition

Looking back at what was a very fruitful year for herself and the teams she played for, Del Campo shares that 2019 was a continuous grind of “eat, sleep, football”, with tightly scheduled local and international tournaments filling up most of her time.

Yet the year was nothing short of “remarkable” for Del Campo, reminiscing the historic achievements of both the Lady Booters and the Philippine Women’s National Team. During the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and AFF Women’s Championship, the striker proved to be a pivotal player, helping the country clinch historic semi-final berths in those competitions. “Being recognized [for] what I’ve done the past year is overwhelming, and it will certainly be an inspiration for me to work even harder,” she affirms.

Additionally, Del Campo never forgets to credit the people around her for impacting her progressive footballing journey, acknowledging, “I met a lot of talented people [who] encouraged me to grow, [both] as a player and as an individual.”

Unprecedented turn of events

Due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 which has caused global distress, life has changed dramatically. The news of UAAP Season 82’s cancellation as a result of the pandemic halted what could have been another spectacular season for the Green-and-White. “It was hard for everyone to stay positive since we’ve all been waiting and preparing for it for so long,” explains Del Campo.

Despite the cancellation of the season, the Lady Booter stresses the need to stay in search of their goal, “We have to remind everyone to be on the same page and continue to work hard so that no one will get left behind.”

As her career continues to flourish, Del Campo has a lot in store for DLSU and Philippine women’s football. “It wasn’t the easiest for all of us to be where we are now but…If we want those dreams to become a reality, we have to keep going,” she expresses, recognizing the platform she has to help mold fellow Filipina footballers.

Bagging several accolades and bringing pride to the national team at such a young age, it is exciting to look forward to this rising star’s future games as one can expect to witness equally stellar, if not more tenacious, performances in the seasons to come.

By Diego Vergel de Dios

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