Like day one for James Younghusband

If things go according to James Younghusband's plan, he will be making his 50th cap for Philippines in their 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup opener against Thailand on Saturday.

Younghusband showing good strength!

By Gabriel Tan in Bangkok

Yet strangely for one who has spent the last six years representing the Azkals, the Loyola Meralco Sparks attacker, along with his younger brother and fellow international Phil, has often been the subject of jibes that he isn't Filipino born and bred.

This was best illustrated earlier this year when they were on the receiving end of abuse from opposition fans in a game against Indonesia (who themselves have a number of foreign-born players and naturalised citizens).

However, those who delve deeper into his life would discover that Younghusband, despite being born in England, took annual trips to Philippines for vacation in his childhood, and jumped at the chance to move permanently to their mother's homeland when the opportunity arose.

Obviously, there are some things that would still make it difficult for him to blend into a Filipino crowd; one being his crisp English accent.

But on the eve of what is likely to be his 50th cap for the Azkals, ask James Younghusband how he feels about playing for Philippines and he will tell you it feels exactly the same as when he pulled on the jersey for the very first time.

"Hopefully I make my 50th cap at some point during the tournament," said the humble 26-year-old, who is regularly mobbed whenever he is out in public in Philippines.

"I still get the same pride playing for the Philippines as I did during my first cap.

"I still need help from the local-born boys when it comes to singing the national anthem, but hopefully I'll get there by my 60th cap!"

Once in the youth ranks of Barclays Premier League giants Chelsea, the Younghusbands are now permanently based in Philippines and are working with their former club to raise the profile of football in the basketball-mad country by starting up football schools.

The duo also ply their trade in the United Football League (UFL), a competition which is still semi-professional by name but has seen an influx of quality players in recent seasons, as football continues to gain popularity.

But for now, both the football academy and Loyola will have to take a back seat as Younghusband aims to fire the Azkals to Suzuki Cup glory, although it will not be easy qualifying from a group also including 2008 champions Vietnam and qualification winners Myanmar.

First up, though, is Saturday's clash against three-time winners Thailand and for Philippines' star winger, there can be no greater motivation to do well than national pride.

"We are so proud to be playing for our homeland - our motherland," he added.

"Now's the time for us to deliver, especially after what we achieved in 2010 [when they reached the semi-finals for the first time].

"We'll be looking to at least qualify for the knockout round and maybe go even further, but we'll definitely be trying our best to do Philippines proud."

Given he only turned 26 two months ago, Younghusband could well be celebrating his 100th cap in six years' time and if things go his way, one of those would involve lifting the Suzuki Cup.

Still, if things really go his way in 2012, cap number 56 could be very special indeed.


ESPN STAR Sports will broadcast all 18 matches with the most extensive online coverage on the AFF Suzuki Cup. Check ( or for local TV listing & breaking news. Follow us on Twitter @espn_star (or @espnstarmy, @espnstarid) for the latest updates from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

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