Despite the national breast-beating over the Philippines’ exclusion from the World Cup, there are some shafts of light. Two teenagers in the Chelsea reserves, James and Phil Younghusband, have a Filipino mother and have already represented the Philippines at football. The way their Pinoy connection was discovered is quite cute:
Desperate to make a good showing as hosts [of the SEA Games], Philippine soccer officials sent scouts and coaches all over the vast archipelago to seek out talent ahead of the Southeast Asian Games.
But none of them were able to pull off what one young soccer fan did while sitting in front of his Playstation game console last year - bring in two English-born brothers contracted to Chelsea, the English Premier League champions.
The Philippine Football Federation didn't know teenagers James and Philip Younghusband existed - until then.
"One young kid was playing the FIFA soccer game on his Playstation, and
found the Chelsea reserve list,'' said Philippine coach Jose Ariston Caslib. "There were two players eligible to play for the Philippines.''
Caslib said the unidentified youngster sent an e-mail to the country's
soccer authorities, urging them to consider the Younghusbands for national selection.
Chelsea is the most expensively assembled football team in the world and any national team would be delighted to be able to pick from a reserve team that is always overflowing with players with multi-million pound price tags.
Not only that, the greatest Barcelona goalscorer of all time, Paulino Alcántara, was born in Iloilo! Alcántara had a Spanish father and an Ilongo mother and represented both the Philippines and Spain at football. He played for Barcelona between 1912 and 1927, scoring 357 goals in 357 matches, an almost unbelievable ratio. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this achievement, Gerd Müller, the greatest goalscoring machine of modern times, scored 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches for Bayern Munich, almost 100 goals more than the second highest scorer. To this day, Alcántara is also the youngest player ever to play for Barcelona.
So there you have it, a glorious past and a promising present. Whether there will be a future for football in the Philippines will depend on politics (see comment 4 from this post on eevil midget) so I guess we can forget about that one then.
Thanks to Nich, Filipino football fan extraordinaire, who told me about the Younghusbands and Alcantara on the plane back from Europe. He had been at the World Cup, proudly waving the Philippine flag (no doubt to the bemusement of other fans--"Perhaps it's the Ecuador flag?").