AS soon as the final whistle was blown, Phil Younghusband only took a few moments to celebrate before rushing to the Loyola Meralco dugout to shave his beard and mustache.
Not used to having facial hair, the Sparks’ strike star had let it grow since the start of the knockout stages as a good-luck charm for his team in the United Football League.
And when the men in orange and white finally bagged their breakthrough championship on Thursday night after escaping Pachanga-Diliman, 3-2, in the Cup finale at the Emperador Stadium, Younghusband could not wait to get rid of it.
“It was getting itchy,” the MVP and Golden Boot winner explained with a smile when Spin.ph asked why he decided to remove it right away.
The football gods finally smiled on Younghusband and the rest of the powerhouse squad, which lived up to lofty expectations after time and again coming short since 2011 when they began getting the backing of the power distribution giant.
Asked how sweet it was, Younghusband, borrowed a quote from a basketball superstar, surprisingly.
“I remember LeBron James said, ‘It was a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s about building a team and it takes time. But to get it, it feels amazing.’”
James, after assembling a super team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, also had to endure a few seasons of heartbreak before finally winning his first two titles.
And the Sparks could be a Miami Heat in the making in the UFL, with Younghusband, center-back Joaco Cañas, and goalkeeper Baba Sampana completing their own version of the Big Three.
If the Heat have Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier, the Sparks have their veterans in James Younghusband, Chad Gould, Roxy Dorlas, and Simon Greatwich.
And if the Heat had Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Chris Andersen as the significant acquisitions, the Sparks have a solid bunch in Sam Bonney, Lee Joo Young, Won Hyung Lee, and Boyet Cañedo, as well as Cañas and Sampana.
“You can’t just bring in one or two players and think it’s going to be successful. The management has done a brilliant job in building a team over the years,” Younghusband said of the team under the management of vice chairman Randy Roxas and coach Vince Santos.
As a result, what had only been an offensive powerhouse has now turned to a complete team worthy to win the title after conceding only two goals while scoring a whopping 78 strikes in the season-opening tournament.
And the future could not be brighter.
“We put so much hard work in the season and there’s no better feeling than when it finally pays off,” Younghusband said. “I hope it continues. Hopefully we can dominate.”