The Azkals turn to a new chapter, as two of their greats leave the game for good.
In the past 8 months, Phil and James Younghusband have separately announced their retirement from the sport, hoping to focus on different things.
As he said on “Crossover”, Phil will attend to family duties with wife Margaret and newborn son Philip in the UK, while James plans to travel and get some experience in coaching.
Thanks to 15 years of representing the country on the international stage, they have a good grasp of what works to achieve a success. During the interview, they shared some valuable insights on how the future squads should approach each tournament.
These numbers sum up Phil and James’ colossal impact on Philippine football: 209 international caps and 64 goals in the bag.
Through the years, they have played with elite footballers in the country, including some of the best talent overseas. But investing on talent alone won’t put the squad through the next level.
They recalled how some of the Philippines’ best performances came after long stretches of preparing and playing together.
“I think the old training camps where you’re together for six weeks, I think that’s why we had that success in 2010 because we had six weeks camp with each other. You’re constantly bonding with the teammates, the coaches.” Phil said.
Cultivating camaraderie among the other players create a better and seamless connection on and off the pitch, thus producing better results.
James echoed this while emphasizing the importance of getting acclimated to an unfamiliar place.
“And your body’s adjusted. When you’re in a tournament like when we played in Nepal with coach (Michael) Weiss in the Challenge Cup, we actually had a good show,” James said.
“I think coach Weiss would say that was Phil’s best tournament under the coach Weiss era where Phil was the top goal-scorer of the tournament.”
He was pertaining to the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, where they had to “rough it out” in Nepal.
The Azkals finished third, a huge step forward after not qualifying in the previous edition.
Phil “fired on all cylinders” and paced the team with six goals.
“Those three weeks, you get time to bond. The coach gets to work what he wants to work. You have that right preparation.” James continued.
Phil added: “You go through those hardships. Everyone else is going through the same thing so you’re not alone in the experience and that’s what brings you closer. You’re doing it with your friends and your teammates.”
It’s been quite a challenge to organize longer training camps in recent years. Most of the top players are committed to their respective clubs abroad, making it hard to align their schedule with the national team.
“Nowadays, it’s very hard with the level of players that are coming in with their professional clubs. You can’t do that anymore,” Phil said.
“We’re coming in with better players, but we’re not as tight-knit. We’re not as close. We’re not going through those hardships together. We’re not spending three weeks before, four weeks before the tournament together. So you don’t go through those things together. So it’s hard to understand each other on the field.”
A handful of players such as Mike Ott and Stephan Schröck currently play for Ceres-Negros FC, which is a club based in the Philippines, but the rest play in either Thailand or Europe.
With a new era dawning in Philippine football, it will be interesting how the federation will make it work. If given the right kind of preparation, the team could elevate to greater heights in the coming years.
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