By Patrick King Pascual,VERA Files
Undeniably handsome. Talented and passionate football players. Committed advocates of a healthy lifestyle. They are brothers James and Phil Younghusband.
The brothers, along with other members of the Azkals team, became an overnight sensation in Philippine sports after their successful stint at the recent 2012 Asian Football Confederation (or the AFC Challenge Cup).
The team competed against eight other Asian football teams, finishing in 3rd place. In the same event, Phil Younghusband received the Golden Shoe Award for having an exceptional number of goals, making him the top scorer of the football season.
The Younghusbands first gained public attention after they led the Philippine team to the semi-final round in the 2010 ASEAN Football Championship Cup, or known to many as AFF Suzuki Cup.
James and Phil were born in England to a British father and a Filipino mother. Both of them started playing football when they were still young. James, who is older than Phil by 11 months, started playing when he was only four years old.
Their popularity further surged when they bagged some advertising contracts (as product endorsers) and showbiz projects. Through their constant exposure, the Younghusbands are able to share with the general public what their advocacy really is.
Apart from their personal dedication to the Philippine Football team, the Younghusbands have committed to help popularize football in a country where basketball and boxing are the more popular sports.
In line with this commitment, they started The Younghusband Football Academy, which operates the Chelsea FC Soccer School Philippines. Their mission is to teach football to the Filipino youth.
For the Younghusbands, football is a sport that can teach the youth good values, such as perseverance and motivation. The two also believe that through the sport, they would also be able to encourage the youth to stay physically fit and live a healthy lifestyle.
"It's always important to have balance in whatever you do: in terms of exercise, in terms of what you eat and what you do, when you're at work and when you're not at work," Phil stressed. "It's all balance and making sure you not only exercise but also eat well. One can't work without the other."
He added there's no point in doing lots of exercise and sports when "you're not eating well, because when you don't look out for your daily food intake, your performance in the field, or in life in general, would be greatly affected."
"Find a sport that you'll find easy. Pick a sport. That way, when you're participating in a sport, you don't feel that hard work is tiring, and you're enjoying it," James added. "You'll also benefit from the workout. And after that, eat healthily."
The brothers have bigger dreams which they want to achieve through The Younghusband Football Academy. They want to generate excitement for and interest in football and attract more football enthusiasts of all levels who wish to enhance their playing skills.
The academy would like to help develop talented Filipino footballers into world-class players and become the showcase and premier entity in developing football talent and league management.
"We want to share what we learned in football to the Filipino youth. It's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle choice one should make," Phil said. "This is also the reason why we spend most of our free time, when we're not practicing for a game, coaching because we want to pass on how important fitness is and having proper eating habits, which will benefit them when they get older."
Their dedication in training the youth has started to pay off, with the recent success of the Loyola Meralco youth team. The team took part in the under-12 championship in the Kia Cup.
Asked how they keep themselves healthy, Phil said, "In football, we were taught to look after ourselves. We were taught to take vitamins, carbohydrates and protein. I make sure that I have proper eating habit and have enough time to exercise. It's all about balance."
James added: "You just have to enjoy what you're doing. In my case, I enjoy playing football. I'm always conscious nowadays of what I eat. In order for me to perform my best in football, I need to put the right stuff in body."
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")