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Younghusbands and Youngwives; Etheridge and Etherbrides

Susmeh! Where would we all be without the antics of Marc Logan on TV Patrol? Just now before the show ended, the news program ran his short clip featuring the Philippine National Football team – fondly nicknamed the “Azkals” – which is currently in Bacolod preparing for its Asian Confederations Challenge Cup encounter against Mongolia later this month at the city’s Panaad Stadium.

And so – Logan narrated – the Azkals were in a training match yesterday at the Panaad against a local team made up purely of Negros standouts. So the short clip – naturally – was entitled “The Philippine Azkals versus the Negros Azukals.” Logan, after all, is a master of the tongue-in-cheek.

I have a long memory where football is concerned; yet I cannot seem to recall the last time fans turned out to watch a training match in football. They were there, alright; albeit, there seemed to be a preponderance of giggling female fans amongst those present. I do not think they were there to watch their fellow Ilonggos in the national team.

What is it about us Filipinos and our fascination with the matangos na ilong?

After the team’s Suzuki Cup adventures, somebody remarked to me with a snort that many of the female fans jumping onto the Azkal bandwagon were of the sort who could not really care less about the football; and that all their attention was because of the laglag-panty good looks of the Fil-Foreigners in the team.

The Younghusband brothers have been more or less household names over the last few years. I was surprised to hear the wife of one of my friends, for instance, remark to me once that she sometimes watched the few national team games that were aired by the local stations. Of course, her interest was exposed for what it really was with an under-the-breath comment, “Ang pogi ni Younghusband…”

She was referring to Phil, of course; although the sulky good looks of older brother James also attract other females. There are fans of the brothers who naturally call themselves the Youngwives. How is that for a statement of intent?

Throw in Fulham’s Neil Etheridge and the Laglag Panty Brigade’s – which we shall henceforth refer to as the LPB for convenience – population grows considerably. Albeit, local Etherbrides face stiff competition from the young goalkeeper’s Indonesian fans… The lad’s name will draw blanks on the faces of British football fans; not so among Indonesians, who hosted our national team in the Suzuki Cup semi-finals just last December.

In fact, traffic is being drawn to this blog by frequent Google searches of the lad’s name; and a reasonable number of these searches are from Indonesia.

I do not mind – I told this guy who made the remark about the Azkals’ female followers – that they are following the team because of the players’ good looks. Sabi ngâ, beggars cannot be choosers. Considering that nobody cared one sniff whether our national team won or lost just two months ago, all the attention can only be good for the team.

Just take a look at David Beckham. He was – at his peak – by no means the best player of his generation; but he arguably had the best fan base. Not to mention a face that was the best marketed brand with a global following. Suffice it to say that Beckham probably made more of his millions outside of the football pitch.

So, I told this guy, at the very least there is hope that those in the LPB will one day be mothers who will encourage their sons – daughters, too – to take up the beautiful game rather than the other silly sports most of us Pinoys oh-so-love to play but are ultimately never good enough at. The Roman Empire, after all, was not built in one day.

To return to Logan’s cheeky story, there is a clamor – daw – for the Azkals to go on a playing tour of the country. So, if in Bacolod they scrimmaged against the Azukals, in Navotas they will play against the Dilis – a reference, I suppose, to the town’s fishing industry. Sa Davao daw, the Azkals will play against the Durians.

Eh if they come here, who will they play? The Lipa Lomis or the Lipa Gotos? Text your vote in!

For the record, yesterday’s training game ended in a 4-all draw. That was probably because national team coach Weiss withdrew the Fil-Foreigners and gave the local hopefuls a run out. By the way, Fil-Brits Etheridge and Rob Gier along with Fil-Icelandic Ray Jónsson are due to fly in later this month to beef up the squad.

I have absolutely no idea what sort of resistance Genghis Khan’s descendants will put up at the Panaad on the ninth. That said, they will not have horse-riding hordes descending from the steppes. But we will have thousands of Pinoys cheering on the nationals for a change in a game that will have live national coverage, by the way. The game is completely sold out.

Go Azukals!!! Este… Azkals!!!

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