by Joaquin Henson
It’s not often that football and rugby players converge on the same turf but believe it or not, they’re getting together for a good cause at the University of Makati on Aug. 25. Azkal stars Phil and James Younghusband are confirmed to see action in a dream charity match with Volcanoes Andrew Wolff and Eric Tai as they lead the way for other celebrities to throw their support for Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Foundation which sponsors a football team to the Homeless World Cup.
The concept borrows from the successful formula that NBA star Steve Nash and former USA World Cup skipper Claudio Reyna used in organizing the first “Showdown In Chinatown” in 2008. Nash and Reyna invited celebrities from football, basketball and media to play a nine-a-side match at the Sara Roosevelt Park in Lower Manhattan. Among the players who checked in were Thierry Henry, Jason Kidd, Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Baron Davis. Admission was free and over 2,500 fans lined the field four-deep around the outside fences and two-deep surrounding the pitch. The showdown has since become an eight-a-side contest and last June, the fifth edition was held.
NBA players who’ve participated in the annual charity event include Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Danny Green, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh and Brandon Jennings. Even Nash’s father John, a retired professional footballer, logged some minutes in last year’s edition.
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Nash’s first love was football. He was born in South Africa but his English parents relocated the family to Canada less than a year after. Nash’s parents gave him a football on his first birthday. Nash, however, gravitated towards basketball while his younger brother Martin became a Canadian national football player and sister Joann was the University of Victoria varsity football captain for three years.
In 2001, Nash formed the Steve Nash Foundation with the goal of helping the less fortunate in the fields of education, health and personal development. The initial projects were youth basketball camps in British Columbia. The Foundation later financed health programs in Paraguay where Nash’s wife Alejandra is from. Eventually, the Foundation got involved in football through the “Showdown In Chinatown” which raises funds for Nash’s various charitable causes through sponsorships. Nash, 38, was recently in the sports headlines for leaving Phoenix to join the Los Angeles Lakers. He has played 16 seasons in the NBA and never claimed a ring.
The University of Makati dream match is being organized by Clear Philippines which has consistently supported the Azkals and promoted the game throughout the country in the last few years. The Younghusbands are Clear endorsers. “Having grown up with the sport, we are thrilled to be a part of this,” said Phil. “Our passion for football goes beyond just winning, it’s about sharing the game we love and helping people along the way. Philippine football has definitely come a long way.”
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What makes the dream match even more enticing is the fans’ participation in voting 40 players from a roster of 50 to be drafted by the Younghusbands who will play against each other. The pool of 50 players includes UFL stalwarts Anton del Rosario, Nate Burkey, Freddy Gonzalez and Eric Dagroh, Patrick Deyto of La Salle, Miko Mabanag of Ateneo, Shirmar Felongco of UST, Guam national player Jonah Romero, Wolff, Tai, Brazilian models and Socceroo F. C. players Daniel Matsunaga and Fabio Ide, TV host Paolo Bediones and members of Boys Night Out. The Younghusbands will pick 20 players each to comprise the two opposing squads.
Voting started last June 25 on Clear’s Facebook site at facebook.com/CLEAR. The Younghusbands will pick from the fans’ top 40 choices and announce their rosters on Aug. 11. “We are truly grateful for the support of corporations like Unilever Philippines in helping our cause,” said Fr. Rocky of the Tuloy Foundation. “With their continued support, which is not limited to the products that we requested for our 500 children, the Foundation is happy to be in partnership with Clear and our future plans. A venture such as this is just one example of the ripples of change that have come as a result of football.”
Clear brand manager John Imperial said, “The Clear dream match is the first of its kind. Some of the finest football players in the scene playing in one game – it’s going to be an amazing show and truly a game for the history books.”
Source: SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star)