THE Philippine Azkals have bent backwards for so long to accommodate celebrated booters Phil and James Younghusband's various commitments off the pitch, but it has reached a point where it became no longer "acceptable."
Azkals coach Michael Weiss said allowing the prolific Younghusbands to be excused from national team duty so they could attend to their various off-pitch commitments has "already reached its limit" as he explained the non-inclusion of the popular brothers from the lineup to this week's Philippine Football Peace Cup.
“I gave them the time they needed for their extra-curricular activities, but it comes to a point where it’s just not acceptable,” Weiss said after the press conference of the Peace Cup that starts this week.
“This has been a process that’s been going on for more than a year and I was surprised myself of how lenient and how understanding I could be as a coach.”
Outside the playing field, Weiss said he has a good relationship with the brothers, who have been both orphaned by their parents. “Their lives touched me very much,” said the coach.
But it’s a whole different story when it involves the national team.
Weiss had earlier asked for the full commitment of every player from September to November, a three-month time frame he allotted to whip the team in tip-top shape for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup – the same tournament where the national squad carved a name for itself two years ago.
In a talk with the Younghusbands last June, Weiss revealed the brothers promised to be present in all team-related activities during that span, except in the Laos friendly in Vientiane last September 10 as they had to observe the first death anniversary of their Filipina mother Susan.
That the Younghusbands missed the Azkals’ two-week US training camp was acceptable since it occurred in August yet.
Weiss, however, recently discovered the brothers had relayed to management they will not be available for the Azkals for the whole month of October as well.
Weiss said the Younghusbands had even asked the team if it could adjust its practice sessions to fit into their busy schedule -- and not the other way around.
“If I accepted that, I would have to quit my job,” said Weiss.
Weiss reminded the brothers about the “strict regimen” they should be following as national team members and their commitments outside of it will only hamper their development.
The Younghusbands’ daily routine nowadays involves from one appointment to another (commercials, photo shoots, handling of their football academy) before joining the Azkals’ practice with understandably little energy left.
“They thought they are still in the condition when they came from Chelsea, but if you won’t undergo this training, you will drop step by step,” Weiss pointed out
The Younghusbands’ potential absence in October has already fueled speculations they could miss the Suzuki Cup tournament.
Although Weiss offered no definite answer, he has indicated there are several players who have the capability to replace James and Phil in the future.
“I already told them (Younghusbands) there are a couple of very interesting players in the pipeline and as much as I don’t want to replace any of them, why would I push two players who are only showing fifty or sixty percent of their potential?” said Weiss.