Sunday, March 7, 2010

KICKING IT WITH THE BROTHERS





My interest in football started when I was very young—when I was an extremely thin, sickly and shy nerd who didn’t really care much about sports. But every afternoon, after a daily 2-hour nap imposed by my nanny, I’d always go out and meet with my best friend for a fun session of putbol in the streets. Putbol, of course, is the Philippine version of football. Now the funny thing is that it’s actually more like baseball—except that the “pitcher” rolls the ball on the ground for kicking.

Before long, I discovered how football was really played—complicated process, strict rules and regulations and all—and realized just how different the “local version” was. I continued playing putbol, not really caring much about the actual sport. Besides, it seemed to me then that nobody played or even knew about football in the country. There was a basketball ring or court in every corner or village, but there was definitely no sight of any football field.

When I got to high school, I got busy with school and puppy love—and completely forgot the sport, any version of it.

Fast forward to adult life. I joined a talent management team and I was assigned to handle the modeling careers of a pair of brothers: James and Phil Younghusband. Before flying to the Philippines to try their luck in show business, the Fil-Brit brothers were based in their native England and were professional football players. They actually started training when they were very young, eventually getting in the prestigious Chelsea football club.

With their immense love for the sport, there was no doubt how much it would figure in our professional and personal relationships. For example, when we would get clothes for a pictorial, we would almost always end up dropping by a sport store so they could check out some soccer shoes. Or when I’d see them using their laptops, they were always checking out football news and the websites of popular football players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.


Since they are actual athletes, some of the shoots that they had required them to don their kits, bring out a ball and show everyone what they can do with it—in front of the photographer. It was always amazing, of course. After all, James and Phil are very experienced, always in control of the ball, performing different tricks with it using various body parts, from their feet to knees, from head to even nape!


I was always busy with work whenever I was with them—fixing their scheds, arranging interviews, hooking them up with the right people—but one stress-free day, I got to bond with James and was reminded of my old putbol days. We were hanging out in his hotel room and as expected, he was tuned in to a football game on cable. Now a football game is the last thing I want to watch on TV but since I had no choice, I had to sit down and watch the whole thing with him. Interestingly though, it wasn’t that painful. We were rooting for different teams and naturally, we cheered for our bet every time a goal was made. There were times when I didn’t understand what was happening or know who was performing very well, and James was more than happy to enlighten me, supplying me with names and terms. By the end of the game—where my team won—I was hooked. After that, I’d get to watch a couple of more games with James again and sometimes with Phil too, but even when I was home alone, I found myself tuning in to the sport channels specifically for football games—and cheering all by myself.

After a couple of years, it was time for me to move on, career-wise. I lost touch with the brothers, but whenever I saw David Beckham or a game of football on TV, I’d always remember the brothers.



Last week, James and I got reconnected, thanks to Facebook. He told me that for the past couple of years, he’s been playing abroad, representing the country as part of the national team. He and Phil have also established a school for the sport: the Younghusband Football Academy, which I think is an excellent idea. I just have to commend the brothers for going back to their mother’s country, and promoting a sport that seems perfect for a height-challenged people. Not only are they teaching a lot of young ones the values of discipline, physical fitness and passion, James and Phil are also contributing to making the Filipino global and world-class.


Once again, they have reignited my interest in the sport and I can’t wait to attend one of their sessions, not just to see them and catch up with them, but also to finally try the actual sport and learn it from the pros. Of course, I might just squeeze in a bit of putbol and show the guys how it’s done this side of the world.