The life and loves of Phil and James Younghusband
10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez () - December 11, 2011 - 12:00am

They are the poster boys for Philippine football today. Whether you’re crazy about them or whether you think they are overrated, it is undeniable that Phil and James are a big part of giving football its much-needed and well-deserved attention and support. With the explosion of the popularity of the Azkals this year came their national heartthrob status, the media frenzy over their personal lives, and their dream come true of meeting and getting to play with their idol, football superstar David Beckham. But this year also brought a tragic loss to their lives, with their mother’s demise last September. It has indeed been a roller-coaster year for the two. Beyond their good looks, endearing accents and public personas, here are 10 things you should know about brothers Phil and James Younghusband.

1. They feel that the toughest part of their newfound fame is actually sustaining all the hype and proving that football is not just a fad.

Getting stopped every few minutes for a picture or autograph isn’t the tough part for Phil and James, and in fact Phil says, “I think we enjoy it because we’re being recognized for our ability, something we’ve worked so hard for since we were three years old. It’s a huge compliment.” The biggest pressure in their opinion is keeping people interested in the sport. They would hate to see people be into football now, but next year, not really care about it. “We want to find ways to sustain it so that football will become more and more popular,” Phil shares. “We didn’t realize that what we had to do was win against Vietnam to gain this kind of popularity,” James says. From planning all these things they can do to increase awareness about football, they now have to manage what projects to do or not do, for the good of the sport. 

2. As to the never-ending questions about whether they will enter show business, they both say they won’t, unless it’s related to football. They recently signed a three-year deal with AKTV to host tutorial segments as the channel’s football ambassadors.

Phil and James: James has a half-British half-Filipino girlfriend Fiona Faulkner, while Phil is still mum about the real status between him and Angel Locsin. Photo by WALTER BOLLOZOS

Phil joined a reality singing contest and James did some commercials prior to the Azkals’ fame, but they did all that in hopes of gaining awareness for football. “Now that people know us as football players, we can try and dictate how we present ourselves,” Phil explains. “Before, it was so awkward when they’d ask us to dance,” James recalls. “But now, when it comes to doing football shoots, time flies and we have so much fun.” As long as the project doesn’t lose sight of their goal to promote the sport and generate interest, the brothers say they’re game to do it.

3. James says that when Phil is in love, “he’s sweeter, but also not as cocky and arrogant.” Phil says that when James is in love, “he’s a gentleman and is very sweet.”

When Phil is in love, James says, “he doesn’t talk about himself as much, he talks about the other person.” Though still mum about the real status between him and Angel Locsin, Phil proudly shares that Angel is “more stunning than anyone I’ve ever been out with, more kind, and has one of the best hearts I know.” Angel, though also mum on their status, recently openly shared they are happy knowing that “ako ay para sa kanya, siya ay para sa akin.” 

Phil shares about James and his half-British, half-Filipina girlfriend Fiona Faulkner: “When I’m with them, they’re very happy. She’s a positive influence on James.” On what it was about Fiona that stood out, James says, “she was enjoyable to be around, would always make me laugh, and would always look out for me.”

It is very important for both James and Phil that their younger sister Keri likes the girls they are with, and they both say — with huge smiles on their faces — that Keri likes the girls they are with now.

4. The brothers compare themselves:More good-looking: According to them, James is the more handsome one and Phil is the cuter one.

Dated more girls: Phil.

More kuripot: James.

More pilyo: Phil.

More religious: Both. Phil says he prays the rosary daily and James goes to Mass when he can. They were both sacristans as kids.

More vain: Phil.

Phil Younghusband and David Beckham:“Football is not just a fad.”

Cries more: Phil. James says he loses his temper more.

Laughs more: Phil.

5. James is 11 months older than Phil, but they were in the same year in school. Phil says: “I think being in the same year helped us because we never had to do anything alone.”

James was the oldest and Phil the youngest in their batch. Did they ever copy homework from each other? “I was smarter than James and I didn’t want him to copy my answers,” Phil jokes. James defends himself saying, “I had neater handwriting and I could draw better.” The more animated and more talkative Phil took up math, while the more reserved and more softspoken James took up graphic design. They went through exactly the same things and so they always motivated each other. “When I’m not doing so well and James is doing better, that would motivate me to do better, and vice versa,” Phil shares.

6. Growing up, they would travel from England to Malabon for vacation every year. What finally made them stay was when someone found them on a video game, which led to the Philippine National Team inviting them to play here.

Both James and Phil grew up training with the Chelsea Football Club in England since they were 10 years old, and that’s basically where they learned everything they know about the sport. It was a mystery gamer playing “Football Manager” who saw their names on the video game’s roster of characters and spotted that the brothers had Filipino blood. “They contacted the Football Federation in the Philippines, the PFF contacted Chelsea, and Chelsea told us,” Phil recalls. In 2005, they were invited to play for the Philippines and they trained with the team and enjoyed it. Phil says, “We saw that football wasn’t so popular here and that there was room for improvement, so we wanted to be a part of that.” James adds, “We were asking, ‘Why don’t they do this and that,’ and we thought, why don’t we just move here and help?” It was always in their plan to live here, but it was in 2008 when both their contracts for Chelsea were expired that they decided to move to the Philippines for good.

Wearing the YHFA Collezione shirts whose proceeds go to the academy scholars

7. The Younghusband brothers in numbers:

7: James’ jersey number.

10: Phil’s jersey number.

8,000: Salary as an Azkal per month in pesos (whether star player or reserve, everyone gets paid the same amount.)

8: Pairs of football shoes they have on rotation a year. “It depends on the fashion as well,” James shares. Phil wears size 10.5 and James wears 13.

129,887: Current total hits of their YouTube videos Teach Me How To Philly where Phil gives a dance tutorial, and Teenage Dream where James lip syncs and dances.

8. Their reasons for putting up The Younghusband Football Academy: to spread love for football as a sport for the working class, not an elitist sport; and so they can still play football, even after their football playing career.

Both of them have coaching licenses from the UEFA, and in TYFA, James handles the technical and logistical needs, while Phil executes the plans with their partner coaches. Since they began in 2010, they’ve already gone to over 10 provinces, partnering with local governments for resources and funding. Also, designer Rhett Eala created a special line of shirts at Collezione for TYFA, and currently, part of the proceeds of the sales go to funding the scholars at the academy. 

TYFA holds two- to three-month-long camps where 40 to 60 children have free football training two or three times a week. For the trainers, they hold a weekend session. “One thing we’ve noticed in the Philippines, even the well-developed coaches are more instructional, when it should be more interaction with the kids,” James shares. Phil explains further, “They should be asking questions, telling them how they can do it and where they went wrong, praise the good things, don’t comment on the bad things.” It’s more of teaching them how to coach rather than what to coach. It is also very important for them that the kids enjoy and have fun. “We don’t want them going away saying ‘That was hard work,’ and they lose interest,” Phil says.

A young Phil and James with baby sister Keri

9. They lost their dad to lung cancer in 2004, and they lost their mom to a massive heart attack just this year. The most important lesson they learned from both their parents: family comes first.

“Dad would always get angry at us if we didn’t spend much time with the family,” James recalls. Phil shares: “Even though they were from different cultures, they had the same heart. It was always about family and they made sure we would always stick together.” James, now 25, and Phil, 24, share that their dad was the one who kept them disciplined, and their mom was the one they leaned on whenever they were in trouble. 

When their dad Philip Sr. passed away, they saw the slow deterioration because he was sick. It was their first time dealing with a close death in the family. “Keri just turned two a couple of days before my dad passed away, and so my dad was bedridden for her birthday,” Phil shares. “We were so young then, and it was very difficult.” James shares, “We had our friends and family to support us, it made us all closer.”

When their mom Susan passed away, they were in Bacolod. They tried to get a private plane just to get them back to Manila faster, but to no avail. They didn’t arrive in Manila until early the next morning. “Keri has been amazing because I think she’s been stronger than me and James during this tough time,” Phil shares. He adds that the afternoon before their mom died, she called them up to check on them. “We’re happy that at least our last words to each other were ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you, too.’”

10. They now stand as both dad and mom to their 10-year-old sister Keri. James says their biggest dream for her is: “To do what she loves doing, like us.”

“I don’t want her to be forced into football, I want her to do something she loves doing,” James adds. Phil answers, “I want her to grow up with respect for others.”

James and Phil last Christmas with mom Susan

Their biggest fear when it comes to Keri? “Boyfriends,” James shares with a smile. “I don’t like her taste in boys.” Phil adds, “I just want her to be safe, especially with all the things you hear in the news now.”

As to who between them is the disciplinarian and who is the spoiler, they say they change roles. They share that the most difficult part is balancing being strict and lenient with her. Phil opens up, saying, “We just want Keri to run to us whenever she’s feeling bad or has a problem.”

* * *

With their deep sense of nationalism and Filipino values, you wouldn’t think that Phil and James had spent their formative years halfway across the world. Hearing their life stories, you will see that they exude a trait we Pinoys take much pride in: resiliency. Whether it be fixing little flaws in the way the academy runs, to keeping what is private away from the public, or adjusting from being sons to being heads of the family, they take it all in stride. At the beginning of the interview I asked what it is about football they love so much. They said, “the range of emotions, dealing with the highs and the lows.” This is probably what equipped them to deal with the challenges of life. “After losing a game, we don’t let it get us down. We bounce back.” 

* * *

E-mail the author at or follow her on twitter @iamsuperbianca.

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