by RJ Ledesma
Phil Younghusband kicks balls for a living. And fresh from kicking the Philippines into a historic third place finish at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup where Phil took home the Golden Boot trophy for scoring the most number of goals in the tournament, The Philippine STAR had the opportunity to dribble it with the Loyola Meralco Sparks and Philippine National Team forward at the FIFA-standard community football field Turf BGC at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig where we found out how he was discovered in a video game, how he tweeted his way into the heart of an Angel, what keeps him going during a game and what makes him Filipino.
RJ LEDESMA: So Phil, you’re endorsing sports apparel, shoes, cellular phones, vitamins, medicines, fast food, tuna, condiments, medicines and a school among other things. When do you have time to play football?
PHIL YOUNGHUSBAND: (Laughs) Obviously it’s a busy schedule. But we have people to help schedule things so there’s always time for everything.
Why don’t you just admit that you have a clone? When you came to the Philippines, you turned into a de facto sex symbol. Did you think, as a young lad growing up in England, that you would eventually become a sex symbol in your mother’s homeland? Or did you just discover your inner sex symbol when you got here?
Growing up, I never thought about becoming a sex symbol. As a kid it was always about football and having fun and doing something that I enjoyed. I didn’t know how I was going to look when I got older or what sort of physique I would have. I guess being athletic helps and being in the (football) profession helps with being a “sex symbol.” It think it’s an association thing with being a sex symbol more than anything else, like David Beckham.
So I can also be a sex symbol by just being associated with you? No need to work on those six-pack abs then. Speaking of symbols, is there any way that we can became as pogi as you? Does it work through osmosis? Reconstructive surgery? A brain transplant into one of your clones?
I think the first thing is genes.
Azkals player Phil Younghusband: “We have Filipino blood, we have Philippine passports, we are proud to represent the country, and we are proud to call ourselves Filipino.”
Genes. Can I buy them at an ukay-ukay?
And the environment that I grew up in — the football training, having to be athletic all the time, hanging around athletic people, making sure my diet was correct — they have had a great influence on me. I have never been fat.
But can playing football make me pogi?
(Laughs) I think it will, if you play more regularly.
You’re a great liar, Phil. In your opinion, what makes you irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex? Is it the piercing eyes? Is it the six-pack abs? Is it the English accent?
I wouldn’t say I’m the best-looking guy around, I wouldn’t say I’m the best football player and I wouldn’t say that I have the best English accent. But I would say that I have a balance and a combination of these different things, which sort of has an appeal for everyone. Some women like athletic people and some women like the accent.
(No Girlfriends Since Birth representative: Perfect! I’ve been practicing my English accent by watching old episodes of Mr. Bean.)
You also seem to have a boyish charm about you. Can we buy this at Marks & Spencer?
I think the boyish charm comes from the way our parents brought us up. They made sure that we had the proper manners, we were always polite, we showed respect, and that we spoke well. They made sure we did things correctly. But I think the charm comes from my mum.
Ah, great! I might be able to find that charm in SM! Now Phil, let’s get to what my legions of NGSB and DOM fans want to know: how did you win the heart of a woman — Angel Locsin — who has been certified as the sexiest female in the Philippines (and the National Statistics Office has the measurements to prove it).
I agree. (Laughs)
Did you employ Filipino courtship tactics, which require manual labor? Or did you employ English courtship tactics, which require an English accent?
I was just being myself. And she liked that. But it really has more to do with the type of person that Angel is. I have a million words or praise for her. I feel I’m very lucky that she liked who I am.
If any of my NGSB or DOM readers tried to be themselves and met up with Angel, they would have probably been arrested. But was there a step-by-step process of how you romanced Angel? Please document it very clearly so that we can sell the book at National Bookstore. I’ll just take half the commission.
Well, it started with a tweet.
You mean you introduced yourself to the sexiest women in the country through a tweet!?
Yes, we hadn’t met before the tweet.
(NGSB representative: You mean all I had to do was tweet!? Why didn’t I try that out!?)
(To NGSB): Please ask yourself that question again after you’ve taken your medication.
You need the guts to actually ask (her out), you need to break that barrier of awkwardness, of being scared of having fear.
I am sure any man could easily break that barrier if he had piercing eyes, an athletic physique, an English accent and several million-peso endorsements.
Once you break the barrier, once they get to know you, just be yourself.
So there was no need to present an NBI clearance?
And if someone doesn’t like you, then…
It’s time to try gayuma?
It doesn’t happen. But I think with I connected with Angel and everything slowly fell into place.
Was this a prepaid or a postpaid connection?
(The courtship process) is different for everyone. With Angel, we didn’t rush things. We got to know each other slowly. Sometimes people rush it and then it blows up in their face because they’re going too far. But with us, we took it slowly and everything has fallen into place.
So no explosions until things have fallen into place — got it. Didn’t realize you were a bomb expert as well. How does it feel to be dating one of the sexiest women in the Philippines? Do you still get regular death threats from DOMs?
Obviously she’s very beautiful, she has a beautiful body and she’s sexy. But I think that one of the most beautiful and sexy things about her is who she is. She’s a very down-to-earth individual, she’s very caring, she really wants to help and she is a genuine person.
You had us all at “beautiful body.”
KICKING IT OFF
Apparently, you were recruited to play football by the Chelsea football club at the age of nine. Isn’t that like child labor? You didn’t even have armpit hair at the time.
(Laughs) We were playing for our school and then we were playing for our city. That was when we were spotted by the scouts of Chelsea football club. Each club has scouts and they are always looking for players even as young as nine because they want to develop their youth. We would train after school three times a week and we would have games on Sundays.
I presume that playing football that often at such a young age will prematurely give you armpit hair. I also understand that you were discovered by somebody who was playing a video game? In what video game did they find you? Halo? Plants versus Zombies? Angry Birds?
(Laughs) One time we were in the Chelsea changing room and the other players said “Why don’t you play for the Philippines?” Then two weeks later, the Chelsea manager called us into his office and said the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) had contacted them and they were wondering if we wanted to play for the National Team. The PFF only found out about us through someone who was playing a computer game called “Football Manager” that had details about each player. Both James and I were on the Chelsea lineup and aside from showing our statistics on shooting and passing, it also showed that we had Filipino blood. So the gamer contacted the Federation, then they contacted Chelsea and Chelsea told us. We actually met the gamer after we won a football game in Bacolod during the SEA games, but I can’t remember his name.
Bravo, anonymous gamer! Keep on gaming! We may eventually discover that Super Mario has Filipino blood as well! Help me better understand what happened after your contract with the Chelsea expired? Wasn’t there a possibility for contract renewal?
In football clubs, there is the starting level, followed by the substitutes and then the reserves. We were in the reserves. It’s difficult as a youngster to progress in a Chelsea team because they hire world-class football players from abroad that they pay millions to acquire. So when our contract ended, Chelsea would help us find another club lower down where you can get the opportunity to play. But instead of going that route, we decided to stay in the Philippines.
From my perspective, that must have been a difficult decision for you to make given that you were going to play football in a basketball-obsessed country where David Beckham is arguably better known as a commercial model who married a former Spice Girl.
We feel more comfortable in the Philippines. It’s nice to wake up to the sun instead of the gloomy weather in England. We’ve got family and friends over here. We just felt it was home.
And home is where you can date the sexiest woman in the Philippines. Aside from some bailiwicks in Negros, the football culture isn’t as ingrained here as it is in other countries. Given this, what do you think are the prospects for the growth of football in the Philippines?
Since my brother (James) and I are coaching now, we see that the level of play at the ages of eight to 10 are similar to that of England. However, it is when the players reach high school and college that their level of play drops because they aren’t exposed to play against better players abroad. At the same age group in England, football players play 60 to 70 games a year, and go abroad to compete against better players. Look at Chieffy (Caligdong — homegrown football player and vice captain of the National Football team), he excels in football because he has played in games abroad against better players than himself which, in turn, made him a better player. For me, our players have the potential. If the country provided more support, invested more money in the football facilities and brought in better opposition for our players, we could become better players.
But aren’t there already enough of these players in the Philippines? I see them hanging around bars with their skintight outfits spouting pickup lines and — Oh, wait, I don’t think those are the “players” you’re looking for. Do you have any plans in the future to go back and play in the European leagues?
I’m happy where I am.
The nature of your answer tells me that you’ve learned a lot from local showbiz. Being a footballer for more than half your life, I’m sure you’ve had your share of battle scars. Have you had any debilitating injuries that have kept you from playing?
I’m very thankful to the Lord that we haven’t had any serious career-threatening injuries. My worst was when I was 14 and I fractured my ankle. I couldn’t play for nine months. But aside from that, I always get niggling injuries such as knocks, aches, bumps and bruises. I need a pain reliever that’s proven effective in relieving both pain and inflammation, like Cataflam 25mg. Cataflam’s great because it is not only trusted in the Philippines, but it is also trusted by doctors who have prescribed it for many years. In fact, Cataflam is manufactured by Novartis, one of the world’s most admired pharmaceutical companies headquartered in Switzerland.
Have there been any recent injuries on the pitch that have kept you from playing?
Sometimes, I really need to play but you have these really bothersome and aching injuries that affect your game. Cataflam allows me to get back into the game while it takes care of the pain. It works in as fast as 15 minutes.
So what is next for you in your career? Movie actor? Singer? Preaching the good news?
My plan is to keep on playing for the Philippines and to help develop football locally. After I’ve stopped playing, I would want to do coaching and to invest my money to further develop football in the Philippines. But right now I want to stay in my comfort zone, I don’t want to do something where I’m going to feel awkward. I want to do things that make me happy and things I know where I can succeed.
Does that mean we won’t see you doing a song and dance number with Angel and the rest of the Azkals on ASAP? My three female readers were so looking forward to it. I’ve got a Miss Universe-level question for you, Phil: What makes you feel you’re a Filipino?
How do you define anyone here as Filipino? We have someone on the team who grew up in the States, who can’t speak Tagalog, but who is full Filipino. I know people who grew up over here, speak Tagalog fluently but who aren’t — by blood — Filipino. We have Filipino blood, we have Philippine passports, we are proud to represent the country, we want to play for the flag, we are proud to be Filipino and we are proud to call ourselves Filipino. For me, that is Filipino.
What a major, major answer, Phil.
* * *
For comments, suggestions or if you know the name of the “mystery gamer” from Bacolod who discovered the Younghusbands, please firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rjledesma.net. Follow rjled on Twitter.