As all athletes — professional or amateur — know, there is an inevitable expiry date to their playing careers. Whether it is by injury, contract expiry, or choice, the fact is that Father Time can never be defeated and that all things must end someday.
This is where James and Phil Younghusband now find themselves. Between the two of them, they have a combined 200 caps for the Philippine National men’s Football Team. And now, having hung up their boots, they shared their thoughts on life after playing the game on the June 30, 2020 episode of the Tiebreaker Vods’ Crossover Podcast, presented by SMART and supported by LGR, hosted by Cedelf Tupas.
“Originally, my plan was to finish off the year with Ceres with the whole 2020 season. But of course, with the pandemic and the situation and football put on hold.
“Especially now, here with it is still on break, I just felt it was time to announce [that] I’ve decided to end it a bit earlier,” explained James,, who capped off his career with domestic silverware and appearances in AFC competitions.
On the other hand, continuous setbacks in the game forced Phil to rethink his status and eventually call time on his career. Additionally, the clincher came when the former forward started a family, turning his focus to other things in life.
“I mean, there’s a lot of ups and downs, and the downs can really bring you down. And it came to a point that I had successive blows with the folding of Davao, with not being able to start in games in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup,” said the former striker.
“It was very disappointing and my morale was very low. And I was getting married at the time, losing my job when I knew I had to fund a wedding.”
Despite their retirement, the siblings admitted that learning how to become a coach has crossed their minds just like their peers Chris Greatwich, Rob Gier, and Chieffy Caligdong. However, they understand that managing the games from the sidelines is a long journey to undertake.
“During this time, you’re sitting at home, a lot of time to think and evaluate yourself and your life, and as well my brother, he’s starting a family. Me as well, I felt there’s other things in life I want to experience as well and a new chapter to begin,” said James.
“I think it’s now time where I wanna start pursuing a possibility in coaching and learning more about coaching.”
Phil added, “We were able to watch the best players in the world every day, the best facilities, being under the best coaches in the world. And most of our knowledge and experience has come from that. But we feel if we want to grow in the sport and we want to help develop football even more in the Philippines, we need to go abroad and gain more knowledge, more experience, and be able to bring it back again to the Philippines.”
After the initial boom of football after the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, the sport’s popularity in the country has plateaued. Winning athletes and teams tend to be worshiped in the Philippines, so the two brothers feel that bringing home trophies is the best way to revitalize it in the mainstream consciousness.
“I think the next milestone for me is winning the AFF Championship. That’s the thing we can really do to really push football again, I think. In 2010, it was the national team success that really brought Philippine football to the attention of the public, and I think it’s gonna take that again,” said Phil.
“We are gonna build the foundations and bring Philippine football again where we’re in a position to win the Suzuki Cup. And when we do that, I think that’s the next catalyst for the Philippine football again.”
According to James, “Something’s got backward, that’s the frustrating part. We’re not asking for a miracle. We’re just asking for improvement in some area[s], and I think… Compare football to the world, you have to think what’s the closest thing for us to achieve. And I think in Southeast Asia, if we can progress there first and become a dominating force, I think we’ve shown glimpses throughout the years. But as Phil said, if we can win that thing, that sets the bar there. Then we can aim for really Asia to go from there.
“The best you can set the standard there is Thailand like, to be honest. Vietnam also, they are the big dogs of Southeast Asian football, and already when they come to World Cup qualifiers, the Asian Cup… They’re a reckoning force already,” he continued.
Though they will never play another competitive match in football, their sporting legacy in the country is indisputable. But of course, they have their own words to describe everything they accomplished and how they hope it will inspire the future generation.
“I think what made me and Phil… It sounds cheesy but it’s true — the Philippines is a very family-oriented country,” said James who later added, “Our teamwork really works well, and we say you can’t achieve something on your own.
“That’s the great thing with football: it really is a team sport and brings people together. And I think like what I and Phil brought, we like to say that message along.”
For Phil, it was about validating their work outside football with their success on the pitch. “We’ve been able to be successful with the teams we’ve been in — first time qualifying in the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup, getting to the Challenge Cup, getting to the Asian Cup.
“I think what we want to be remembered is being good football players who were in good successful teams for the Philippine national team, and we had a really good connection with the Filipino people as well.”
In the end, for the brothers, it is always about helping Philippine football further develop despite them having given so much for it already. It is safe to say that James and Phil’s influence in the growth of the sport in the country is set to grow in the coming years, and that can only be a good thing.