Phil and James Younghusband, the celebrated Filipino-British brothers who have been left out of the Azkals squad in the recent Peace Cup, have signified their availability for the Philippine men’s football team’s Middle East training camp later this month.
Contrary to reports that they would be unavailable for the whole month of October, the Younghusbands said they are ready to return to national team duty and are just waiting for the call from the Azkals’ management.
“If we’ll be asked to go, we’ll be there,” James Younghusband said on Tuesday after the luncheon hosted by Kenny Rogers at Matalino St. Quezon City introducing the brothers and actress Iza Calzado as the restaurant’s ambassadors.
“Obviously we’d like to play. But decisions have to be made on whatever’s best for the team. Hopefully we’ll be called up,” Phil said.
As part of their preparation for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November, the Azkals will be facing two formidable teams in 112th-ranked Bahrain on October 12 and 100th-ranked Kuwait on October 16.
Phil reiterated his disappointment that he and his brother were excluded from the team in the Philippine Football Peace Cup even if he didn’t miss any training session leading to the three-day, four-nation tournament.
“I want to start. I want to play every game. I can understand not being in the team if my performance wasn’t there. But so far I’m scoring goals; I think I’m playing okay. And I was really preparing myself for the Suzuki Cup so I can compete there,” Phil said.
The Philippine Football Federation said that the Younghusbands were left out of the roster due to “economic and non-economic issues.”
The PFF, sources said, cannot afford “even half of the amount” requested by the brothers in exchange for their full commitment to the team until the Suzuki Cup and simply got fed up with trying to work around the duo's "extra-curricular" activities.
If and when a compromise is reached and the prolific Younghusbands eventually return to the Azkals' fold, they will have to work to regain their place in a team that has found gems in their absence during the Peace Cup.
Among the booters who have stepped up in their absence were strikers Denis Wolf, OJ Porteria, and midfielders Patrick Reichelt, Demit Omphroy, and Matt Uy.
“I’m very happy for my good friend Denis Wolf. He was able to score goals and get his confidence back. As a striker, as long as you’re scoring goals then there’s no problem. Hopefully he can score more goals and I can play with him again,” Phil said.
“There’s always going to be players behind you wanting to compete and have a part in the team. So that’s football. There’s lot of competition for places,” James said.
But when they don the national colors again, they just want to fit in seamlessly and not affect the chemistry and cohesion the team gained during its first title conquest in 99 years.
“We want to be there to help out, not disrupt anything,” Phil said.