Life as a professional football player is not easy.
Not only does one have to perform at a high standard for their club, but they must also do so with the national team, which can then be a source of tension between the two entities.
In the early part of his career with the Philippine National Men’s Football Team, Phil Younghusband had the same problem, and it forced him to make a life-changing decision.
In an interview with his brother James hosted by Cedelf Tupas in the June 30 episode of the Tiebreaker Vods’ Crossover Podcast, presented by SMART and supported by LGR, the 32-year-old disclosed the career move that turned him into an Azkals legend.
After their successful debut in the 2005 SEA Games, Phil and James Younghusband were called up again by the country as part of the squad for the qualification tournament for the 2007 AFF Championship, which was held in Bacolod, Philippines, on November 2006.
In four matches played on home soil, the Filipinos won thrice. They finished second in the standings with nine points behind eventual winners Laos, which had 10. Phil was the top scorer of the tourney with six goals, four of which came in a 7-0 rout of Timor Leste. However, that was the closest he got to playing in the actual competition.
“Yeah, I remembered going to one of the coach’s offices in Chelsea and they said it was a crucial time here in the season for [me]. My contract was up for renewal at the end of the season,” shared the Filipino-Englis striker.
“So it was best that I stayed and can’t be away for another couple weeks, because my contract was up for renewal in June. So I had to show what I can do in Chelsea.”
While Phil had to fulfill his club duties in England, James and the rest of the team, led by coach Aris Caslib, tried to make do without him in Thailand.
Without his presence in the team, the Philippines failed to score in each of their matches against Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
“James was able to go, and I was very envious because James was able to go and I wasn’t.
“A lot of the players that couldn’t make it previously were there in that tournament like Anton (Del Rosario), Aly (Borromeo), Chris (Greatwich). I remember just watching the highlights on TV and speaking to James. The technology wasn’t around then, so you can’t really get the coverage of the game,” added the former national team skipper.
From that point, Younghusband was at a crossroads so early in his career.
The need to play football professionally was there, but also the determination to compete for flag and country.
Needless to say, his choice set him on the path to greatness in the country.
“I had my contract renewed in June (2007) again. I was doing quite well at that time, but missing playing for the Philippines was something that made me quite sad, actually. Before my contract ended in June (2008), I was opting to go alone in League One or go to the Philippines, and I decided to go play for the Philippines in the 2008 (AFF Championship) qualifiers,” said the country’s record goalscorer.
“Could have been different had I gone… but I knew at the time that I wasn’t gonna miss playing for the Philippines. So that’s why I left.”
The history of Philippine football could have been so different had Younghusband opted to focus on his professional career rather than playing for the country.
Thankfully, we will never know what would happen if the opposite came true, as it is hard to imagine him not banging 52 goals in 108 appearances while wearing that Azkals kit.