National team isn’t a full-time job.”
That was how James Younghusband justified his and his brother Phil’s absence from the Philippine national men’s football team’s ongoing training tour in the United States.
Without the Younghusbands, the Azkals were walloped by semi-professional side Chicago Inferno, 3-1, early Sunday Manila time in the first game of their tour. The Younghusbands stayed in Manila to attend to several commitments, including playing in a charity exhibition match organized by CLEAR.
James pointed out that unlike in Europe, where national players receive big salaries to play football, Filipino players need to grab at opportunities that come to them.
In previous interviews, the Younghusband brothers have pointed out that they are not just football players, but they also serve as guardian to younger sister Keri. The siblings were orphaned last year after the death of their mother Susan.
As the Azkals rose to national consciousness after their surprising semifinal run in the 2010 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, the Younghusbands’ stardom also skyrocketed, luring many endorsements and showbiz appearances which made them the most popular member of the national team.
Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss said he understands the position of the Younghusband brothers. “For the close to two years that I’ve been with them, they have done so much,” Weiss said.
But he also said that the situation is getting trickier. “It has now come to a point that I have difficulty explaining to players who are always there and have potential,” Weiss said. “I told them that you are the pillars of the national team. You must commit yourselves.”
But Phil said it’s all about communication.
“It’s important to let the players know what is going on. If players aren’t aware, then they would then think that it is unfair,” he said.
Despite the distractions off the pitch, the Younghusbands still reiterated their commitment to the national team. Come September, they vowed to train with the team until the Suzuki Cup in November.
“We will still be with the team,” Phil said. “We just had to do something elsewhere.”