VIDEO | Phil and James Younghusband learn to dance Lady Gaga InterAKTV · Wednesday, May 16, 2012 · 5:01 pm
We don’t know if it’s the new requirement for our country’s best athletes — see the Veterans and RSJ All-Star performances — but Azkals and Loyola Meralco Sparks stars Phil and James Younghusband joined Chiqui Roa-Puno in TV5′s “Good Morning Club” to learn to dance Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”.
An interview with the Younghusbands ESPNSTAR.com speaks to Loyola Meralco Sparks duo James and Phil Younghusband about life playing in the United Football League (UFL) and the rise of Filipino football. By Gabriel Tan
For a long time, the Philippines, home to over 92 million inhabitants, has embraced one and one sport only - basketball. Due to the huge American presence in the archipelago in the aftermath of the Spanish-American war all the way to the end of World War Two, it became the nation's number one game and led to the Philippines being one of the best teams in the world.
In the 1950s, Team Pilipinas won three Asian Games golds and also finished third in the 1954 FIBA World Championships - the best finish by an Asian country in the history of the competition.
Then came along a Bukidnon native by the name of Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, or 'Manny' as he's more famously known as, and his rise to the top of the boxing world not only captivated the hearts of many, but saw public interest for the sport grow tremendously.
It seemed football was never going to establish itself in the hearts of the sports-mad Filipinos, who already had basketball and boxing to devote their attentions to. The lack of any proper organisational infrastructure did little to help generate interest in the beautiful game, at least when it came to matters of the national team.
All that changed in December 2010, when a young Azkals side, having barely made it out of the qualification stages on goal difference, made it all the way to the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup, where they eventually fell to regional giants Indonesia.
In the process, the Philippines not only progressed from Group B undefeated, but recorded an impressive 1-1 draw with Singapore before shocking defending champions Vietnam 2-0.
Their performance was followed by a third-place finish at this year's AFC Challenge Cup, a clear sign that the Philippines are slowly but surely rising as a force to be reckoned with in the region.
Azkals star duo James and Phil, who were previously on the books of Barclays Premier League giants Chelsea, believe that national interest in the sport is now at an all-time high, although they hope to see more attention shifted to the country's domestic league - the UFL.
ESPNSTAR.com: Good day boys and thank you for taking the time out to have a chat with us. First up, would you care to let us know more about how two boys born in Surrey, England ended up playing for the Azkals?
JY: This was back in 2005. We were still at Chelsea at the time and our youth team team-mates told us we should try out for the Philippines because we were eligible. A couple of days later we got called into the manager's office and he said: "We just got a call from the PFF (Philippine Football Federation), would you like to try out for the national team?" It couldn't harm us to try out so we went there on vacation and tried out.
At first it was frustrating having to pick bricks off the field and having the older guys from the national team kicking us, but we saw it as an opportunity to make our mum proud. We saw there was a lot of potential to play for the Philippines but what actually kept us going were the team-mates and management, who were so nice and accommodating. They went out of their way to make life easier for me and my brother and then when we were in England, we always got excited whenever we heard there was an upcoming tournament. Really, it's the football we enjoy - we enjoy playing for the country and getting together with the fellow national team players.
PY: I think for us it was about being aware. As young kids we lived in England so we were aware of the English national team. Then we visited the Philippines and it was all about basketball, so you're not really aware there's a football national team. So for us to be inspired to be Filipino footballers at a young age, when you're not aware of it, was impossible.
As young kids only aware of the England national team, watching players like David Beckham, Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham and Paul Gascoigne, you end up aspiring to play for England. But obviously once we were aware there was a Philippines national team, we wanted to represent our mother's country - our country - so it's all about being aware. Had we had a national team that had been in the media all the time, constantly being marketed, then I'm sure we would have wanted to play for the Philippines all along.
ESPNSTAR.com: You two penned three-year deals with Loyola Meralco Sparks last year and are now firmly entrenched in Filipino football. Was it a difficult transition moving to Asia having spent most of your lives in the United Kingdom?
JY: It wasn't really too much of a culture shock because we visited the country every summer holiday, every chance we got. Of course, it was a really long flight but we always enjoyed it. Our mum has lots of family there - our relatives - and there's always a nice feel, something different compared to England. A lot of friends have come over to visit and said they would want to live here.
PY: Before we officially decided we wanted to live here, we were actually on a long holiday and as James said, we'd been to the Philippines every year for our holidays so it hasn't been that difficult. We had family and friends here and we were already on a long holiday before we decided to move, so the transition wasn't difficult. The thing we probably miss most about England is our friends and family there but other than that, we're very comfortable and the Philippines is our home.
ESPNSTAR.com: The both are you arguably the biggest footballing names in the country. What has it been like having to cope with being in the media spotlight on a daily basis?
JY: Phil's the one that's mostly in the media!
PY: It is probably difficult. In England, you go out and read the tabloids and believe everything you read. Now we're seeing stories and rumours made up about us, it's really shocking the things you hear. And now you're like, "I shouldn't have believed that when I was younger". It is difficult and when you are in the spotlight, people will try and bring you down but the good thing is we've had people around us to keep us grounded. We make sure we managed everything properly and as I've said, anything we do is about football. We don't forget our roots and where we've come from - everything is about football. It is difficult in terms of dealing with what people are saying about you but we always know as long as the people close to us know the truth...
JY: We have really great people around us, we work with good people. Whenever we're surrounded by our team-mates, it's just back down to earth. I think the most important thing we're proud of is that we're recognised as footballers and not as other things. That's our number one passion and who would have thought in the Philippines you could be recognised as a footballer.
PY: That's what we're most proud of - the fact that everyone knows Phil and James are footballers. Not models, not actors, not anything but footballer players, and to be able to say that in the Philippines, which is a basketball-crazy country, is one of the main things we're really proud of.
ESPNSTAR.com: On the field, how does being two of the biggest names in Filipino football add to the pressure of having to deliver week in, week out?
PY: It does add to the pressure in the UFL. People come up against us and they try to get one up on you. We noticed when teams play against us they get tighter and more aggressive and then you watch them in other games and you say "they didn't play like that against us!" It's a compliment in a way, but we know it's a team game and if me or James is marked out of the game, another player's free and we should get the ball to him. It does make things difficult on a personal level as you don't score as many goals because you're more tightly marked, but I think it definitely should be seen as a compliment.
ESPNSTAR.com: You two are now plying your trade in the UFL, a competition that is officially still 'semi-professional' but one with many professional players like yourselves. How far do you think it has come in recent years?
PY: It's still developing although the actual Filipino league has been going on since the 1990s. Since then, the money's come in and it's been taken over by new ownership - it's only been three years. It's a very, very new league but slowly everything's getting better. Right now, there are more facilities being built. In terms of players, there's been a foreign influx so slowly it's developing and getting better.
ESPNSTAR.com: What areas do you think could still do with improvement as the competition looks to take a step closer to becoming one of the more-recognised leagues in the region?
JY: I think there should be more support from the government body - the PFF. There was a big transition when the national team shot up in awareness. Before, people weren't aware there was a national football team but now they do, and they [the PFF] are still trying to figure out that balance between promoting the national team and the UFL. They're still figuring out how to schedule games so that the players playing in the UFL can also feature for the national team, but it's very hard at the moment.
PY: For me, it's the facilities at the moment. There are two turf fields being built and there are plans for more. We've had a couple of games cancelled because of heavy rain and I think with better facilities, the standard of football will improve. But also, the standard of refereeing needs to be improved, although that will come. I think the PFF are looking at bringing in a referee instructor from other football associations. For me, I think the facilities and the refereeing need to be improved but I think if the fields are more conducive for football, the refereeing will automatically get better.
ESPNSTAR.com: Do you guys think the local media have a huge part to play in helping raise awareness to the general public?
PY: In terms of the national team, we have a very strong media following. Anything we do right now, it's on the front page sometimes. But with the local league, it's still getting there and at the end of the day, money talks, so the more money the clubs can get in and the league can generate, the more marketing power the UFL can have. I think companies don't exactly want to throw all their money in right now, but football is the fastest-growing sport in the Philippines so I'm sure in the future we'll see a lot more media attention for the league.
But we try to do whatever we can to get people to take notice; we link it to entertainment, lifestyle, things like that that can get people interested. I think James and I are probably the most visible people in the Philippines, which is why we're trying to reach out and help other people. We have our soccer school in the Philippines, we have a TV show to talk about football, and we try to link everything to football. We've always said we won't do something unless it's related to football. Right now the awareness is there, but it's just about educating the Filipinos about the sport and that will take time.
JY: An example would be our first press conference for the national team back in 2006; we arrived and there were only two reporters. Now we've just opened our Chelsea Soccer School Philippines and we had to have more seats brought in, so it just shows how things have changed. Phil's right, it will take time but it's good to see now there's some sort of football presence in the Philippines and I think if we can carry on doing what we're doing, it'll just build up and there'll be much more football to see.
PY: The thing with basketball and its popularity - so much money has been invested in it and it's already reached its peak. The basketball league has been established now for years, it hasn't really gone anywhere since now the national team hasn't really improved, so how far can they go to actually improve the league? Whereas with football, there are so many things that can be done to raise the level. That's the one thing we're really excited about.
ESPNSTAR.com: Considering the huge strides the Azkals have made in recent regional tournaments, where do you think that places you guys heading into the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup?
PY: One thing we're trying to do is manage people's expectations because there's so much media hype, they think we should be beating the best teams in the world, and that's what we're trying to educate everyone about. But for us, the most important thing is Southeast Asia - we have to become regular contenders in the region before anything. Our priority is currently on making a mark in Southeast Asia and if we can regularly make the semi-finals and finals of the Suzuki Cup, then that's where we want to be.
It is a great compliment now that we're being seen as potential challengers for these tournaments but the problem is when you lose...
JY: ... you start getting all these basketball lovers jumping on your back saying: "look, they get all this money funded to them to play for the national team and yet you lose." We actually don't get paid to play for the national team, we choose to do so as an honour.
Did you guys notice how unproductive the Younghusbands have been lately both at the UFL level where their team loyola has lost their spunk , with a loss and a tie in their last few games, and in recent Azkal friendlies. I think the Younghusbands have too much on their plate lately and can no longer be considered professional footballers since they spent so much time attending to other things. As a result their game has suffered.
Unfortunately, they are irreplaceable and will be called up once again come Suzuki cup time. It just sets a bad example for the other players, no matter how much Bob Guerrero justifies their actions. I presume that they will participate in the last training camp prior to the tournament, but it is unfortunate that they don't spend as much time anymore polishing their craft. Without them, the Azkals are just not the same team.
Phil, James still committed to Azkals By Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 07/01/2012 7:41 PM | Updated as of 07/01/2012 7:41 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Phil Younghusband assured Filipino football fans that he and his brother James remain firmly committed to the Philippine national team even if they will miss the Azkals' upcoming training camp in the United States.
"We're always committed to the Azkals, and we know that without the Azkals, Philippine football wouldn't be where it is," Younghusband told ABS-CBNnews.com. "But we have a good cause here, a charity event."
The Younghusband brothers will participate in the Clear Dream Match on August 25 at the University of Makati field, in a charity game that will also feature other members of the national team, players from the United Football League and some celebrities.
The Younghusbands became the subject of social media vitriol when it was revealed that they will miss the Azkals' August training camp in the US, wherein the team will face Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire.
Phil insists, however, that their participation in the Dream Match is part of their long-term goal for football.
"Me and my brother, we're about promoting football. We have a long term goal of promoting football, and this is a part of it," he explained.
Moreover, the event is for a good cause, as it benefits the Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Foundation, the organization know for sending a team to the Homeless World Cup.
Phil said he and James will only be missing the August training camp.
"We'll be available for the September camp, the October camp, the November camp, the December camp. We'll be there for all the camps. It's just this one, because we have a commitment," he said.
"We're always committed to the Azkals and we'll always make ourselves available for the Azkals," Phil added.
"It's just this time, we have a commitment and it's for a great cause."
Last June 1, Phil and James also missed the Azkals' friendly against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, which ended in a goalless draw. But they played in the two successive friendlies, a 2-2 draw against Indonesia and a 3-0 win over Guam.
Post by teddyandtimmysdad on Jul 3, 2012 8:56:44 GMT 8
"the buzz". what a waste. all they wanted to know about was angel locsin, where they went , etc etc etc. what a load of crap. turned it off after about 3 minutes.
I've read a lot of commentary about this dream cup match. from my point of view, the team has so much work to do, missing the camp is really poor form. on top of this, according to the article above, it is not just about phil and james. It says in the article that it is "a charity game that will also feature other members of the national team." So, I wonder how many others will miss the camp because they are being sucked into this? Sure it is for a good cause etc etc, but why couldn't they schedule this for a week later?
Post by teddyandtimmysdad on Jul 11, 2012 1:29:38 GMT 8
IIRC the football school opening was originally scheduled for July 14 but got delayed to August due to a "sudden request to meet with the Chelsea management". I think I still have the SMS in my phone saying this...
Continuing our series on the young stars who could light up the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, we look at striker Phil Younghusband who will be looking to fire the Philippines to another strong showing this year after their run to the semi-finals two years ago.
In early 2010, Phil Younghusband's football career appeared to be at a crossroads.
The problem for the Anglo-Filipino forward was not his own form but his lack of competitive action in the Philippines.
Having spent over a decade in the youth development system at Chelsea, Younghusband had been released by the English giants two years earlier and had moved to his mother's homeland to explore his professional opportunities there.
However, the job prospects for the urbane youngster were in modelling rather than in football, which had little real traction among Filipino sports fans far more obsessed with basketball and the boxing exploits of Manny Pacquiao.
So while his modelling and media career took off, Younghusband's involvement in football appeared to be at a standstill as he was overlooked by the national team, the Azkals, for the handful of matches that they got to play.
Frustrated by the lack of football opportunities in the Philippines, he and his elder brother, Azkals midfielder James, had been working on their own youth development programme in order to maintain their interest in the game. But at that point, Phil received a recall by the Azkals for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.
"I started up the training academy because I wanted to still be involved in football and I wanted to remain in the Philippines. So I created a job for myself, running a football school so that I could coach kids and pass on the knowledge that I had learned as a footballer at Chelsea," says the 25-year-old.
"I had not been involved with the national team for a while and I wasn't very happy with the politics at the Philippines Football Federation. But there had been a change of management there and the new management spoke to me about their plans for the future which sounded good. I was enthusiastic and so I re-joined the team."
Younghusband's decision proved to be a fateful one. The Azkals shone at the AFF Suzuki Cup as they beat defending champions Vietnam and reached the semi-finals for the first time which generated huge interest in the team and the sport back home.
Two years on from the team's exploits in the 2010 tournament, the Younghusbands have become household names in the Philippines as they balance their many footballing interests which include playing for the national team and local semi-professional side Loyola Meralco Sparks as well as their continued involvement with the Younghusband Football Academy, which is now officially associated with their former club, Chelsea.
"You could say that my football career is back on track," quips Younghusband.
The Philippines' success in 2010 came as a complete surprise to everyone involved with the sport in the country, given their poor record in previous editions of the Asean Football Championship when they had played 21 matches and won just once while losing on 19 occasions.
"I think that our main aim was to try to finish in the top three in our group so that we would not have to qualify for the 2012 tournament," says Younghusband.
"We did not want to finish at the bottom but we were in a tough group with Vietnam and Singapore and we thought that it would be those two teams that would qualify for the semi-finals while we battled with Myanmar for third place. But we got a draw against Singapore and a win against Vietnam and that changed our expectations from then on."
Younghusband made his mark by scoring in a memorable 2-0 win against defending champions Vietnam in Hanoi.
"That was one of the best moments for me personally because that result changed football in the Philippines," he recalls.
"Seeing that they were the defending champions, securing a 2-0 win was an amazing feeling and I'm sure that will always be remembered as the point when Filipino football changed."
Despite losing 2-0 on aggregate to Indonesia in the semi-finals, the performance of the Azkals won plenty of admirers and helped to give the sport a huge kickstart in the Philippines.
"I think that we showed over the two games in Indonesia that we had heart and that we wanted to win for our country. I think that was what everyone loved the most," says Younghusband.
Buoyed by their success at the Suzuki Cup, the Azkals have been involved in a lot more competitive action over the past couple of years. They successfully qualified for this year's AFC Challenge Cup and made a huge impression in Nepal by reaching the semi-finals and eventually finishing third after wins against India, Tajikistan and Palestine.
Younghusband was one of the keys to the Philippines' success in Kathmandu, finishing as the tournament's leading scorer with six goals. His fine goalscoring form can be attributed to his new position in the Azkals formation.
"At the last Suzuki Cup, I was playing deeper and I was probably getting on the ball more, linking up play and assisting and scoring some goals," he explains.
"I feel that I'm naturally more of a deeper forward who is able to drop off and receive the ball. But coach Michael Weiss wants me to play up top so I'm not getting the ball as much but now I'm trying to make runs on goal and working myself into threatening positions.
"I've had to adapt my game for the team but it seems to be working as I've scored 25 goals in 35 international games and that's not a bad record!"
And from the situation two years ago when he hardly any competitive matches to play in, Younghusband now finds himself with a glut of football action in the build-up to this year's AFF Suzuki Cup.
"Before the last Suzuki Cup, we hardly ever played any international friendlies but after our success there, we seem to be playing on every date possible," he says.
"We have quite a few training camps before the Suzuki Cup so it's been very busy for us. It feels like we're full time and it's very difficult to schedule anything outside of the national team."
Post by stellarboy on Sept 11, 2012 21:37:19 GMT 8
Phil is featured on Goal.com as one of the "10 players better for their country than their clubs."
The Surrey-born Chelsea trainee never made the grade at Stamford Bridge, and played little club football at all prior to being released from his contract and moving to the Philippines in 2008. He has always been a consistent goalscorer for his country, however. Since making his debut in 2006, he has grabbed an impressive 26 goals in 38 internationals. He is now resurrecting his club career with local side Loyola Meralco Sparks and claimed the Golden Boot at the AFC Challenge Cup earlier this year.