Villaflor: The silence of the Sparks-A A +A
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
YOU’VE probably heard the news by now: the Younghusbands are back in the team.
This hardly comes as a surprise, even with all the hype and noise surrounding how the Younghusbandless Azkals squad won the Philippine International Peace Cup last weekend.
I wrote in a previous column that it didn’t make any sense to remove the brothers while in the thick of preparations for a big tournament, the Suzuki Cup, when they’ve been an integral part of the Azkals for years. It was all too easy to let them go.
(For a while, I thought the public was taken in for a ride and everyone was in it, but that doesn’t matter now, does it?)
So the latest in the Philip and James Younghusband dramathon is that they will now be part of the team that will go against Bahrain on Oct. 12 and Kuwait on Oct. 16.
“After careful consideration, the management has decided to include Phil and James Younghusband in this training camp. Both siblings remain assets to the Azkals and remain part of the team. The training camp should be a good venue to hone a stronger team with an even better chemistry on the pitch,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said in a statement posted on his Facebook page yesterday afternoon.
The Philippine Football Federation has also requested the Younghusband’s club, Loyola Meralco Sparks, to release the two players for the Middle East training camp. The Azkals are slated to leave on Saturday, Oct. 7.
But lost in the cacophony of controversy and celebration is the Loyola Meralco Sparks FC’s two-leg semifinal appearance in the Singapore Cup against Tampines Rovers FC.
The two will clash tonight at the Clementi Stadium in Singapore for the first leg, then on Saturday for the second leg, the same day as the Azkals’ flight.
Granted the Sparks allow the release of the Younghusbands, it is doubtful whether they can join the flight. Let’s just hope that this “failure” won’t be used against Philip and James to question their “commitment” anew.
For one, football stakeholders know the significance of the Sparks’ participation in the Singapore Cup, where they’re representing both league and country.
In a United Football League (UFL) website article, Sparks president Randy Roxas said the club’s participation in the Singapore Cup “signifies that Philippine and club football is on the rise.”
“Any UFL team that participates in a foreign club tournament will not only be playing for their own side but also for the UFL and the Philippines. It is an honor. Now we hope that we can go all the way,” the UFL website quoted Roxas as saying.
The possibility of seeing the Sparks in the Singapore Cup finals doesn’t sound farfetched, but against a formidable Tampines Rovers in their own turf, the Philippine visitors must play as if their passports depended on it to go through.
At the onset, no one really knew how the Sparks would fare in the tournament, until they beat Singapore’s Geylang United 2-1 in the preliminary round to advance to the quarterfinals, where they disposed of Myanmar’s Kanbawza, 5-3 on aggregate, after two dirty legs, setting up a semifinal match up with Tampines Rovers.
The Rovers, defending S. League champions and current leaders, have dangerous forward Alexandar Ðuri and a couple of fellow Singapore Lions teammates.
The Sparks have gritty, experienced players in the Younghusband brothers, goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma, midfielder Andres Gonzales, and defender Roxy Dorlas, all of whom are in the Azkals pool, plus new sign in Chad Alesna Gould, a former national.
Knowing they’re up against a capable team, the Rovers were respectful enough to welcome the Sparks upon their arrival. “Maligayang pagdating sa Singapore Loyola Meralco Sparks FC,” the Tampines Rovers FC posted on their opponent’s FB wall, perhaps to lull them into a false sense of ease.
The Sparks arrived yesterday at around 2 p.m. in Singapore, without fanfare, only with the unsettling silence of a football club that means business.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 04, 2012.