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James Yap

What an extraordinary game this one was that just finished in the First Division of the UFL. The Loyola Meralco Sparks were cruising to an apparent 3-1 victory over the Philippine Air Force Phoenix. Don’t all coaches preach, after all, not to stop playing after the final whistle has blown?

The Sparks should have listened. In added time, the never-side-die Airmen clawed themselves out from the grave to score in quick succession and level the score at 3-all. That was how the match ended.

For the Airmen, it was a continuation of the annoying pattern of falling behind and having to play catch-up all over again. At least today, they actually did. One wonders if the old legs are starting to creak.

For the Sparks, however, the unexpected draw meant that they surrendered the league leadership to Global FC, which earlier defeated Kaya FC, another title contender.

The match was turned on its head by a moment of petulance by – of all people – the Sparks’ captain, James Younghusband. I don’t know what the altercation was between him and the Air Force defender; but Younghusband for some reason suddenly lost the plot and nudged the Air Force player at the back.

The latter, naturally, fell to the floor and milked the situation for every drop that it could yield. Naturally, Younghusband was sent early to the showers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of Younghusband. In many ways, I like his football more than I do his brother Phil’s. Some of the diagonal cross-field passes that James was spraying in today’s game, for instance, were of the sort that made David Beckham an exceedingly wealthy man.

However, if he was as petulant as this when he played with Chelsea Reserves, then I can’t say that I’m surprised that they let him go.

The other year, I came across an article that talked about the professionalism that was being drilled into the youth players at Liverpool by the coaching staff. For one little swear word, one of the youth players received a severe reprimand from the staff.

One never can tell if a referee will mistake a swearword as aimed at him; and so that reprimand was only in keeping with the high standards of professionalism expected at Liverpool.

One can be the most talented player in the world; but will be of no use to his team unless he is on that football pitch using his talent. Football, of course, is a game of emotions. That said, it is also a cerebral game.

Personally, I have always preferred those who use their heads more than their emotions. Today, Younghusband just did not use his head. Whatever it was that he disagreed with the Air Force player about could have waited until the final whistle blew.

I can keep an open mind about a player being sent off for trying to save an inevitable goal. But for petulance? In added time and with your team leading by two goals? Bollocks, the Brits would say!

Of course, it was never as though the Sparks could not have kept out Air Force with ten men. My suspicion, however, is that Younghusband’s teammates lost concentration because of the sending off.

I’m not entirely sure because the television coverage from Nepal was dodgy at best; but if I’m not mistaken, at least one of Younghusband’s yellows in the AFC Challenge Cup was for dissent.

That his two yellows ultimately cost the national team a place in the final against DPR Korea is very much a valid hypothesis. Particularly as Angel Guirado was also suspended, ours was not the same national team that played against Turkmenistan.

I don’t think that I’m the only one who notices that Younghusband so loves to yap at referees. Not only in the UFL, mind. Even in international matches!

Some referees will be tolerant; but then again, some won’t.

The sooner that Younghusband learns to keep it shut, the better it will be for him and, more importantly, for whichever team that he is playing for. He is an excellent player who has an excellent work ethic.

He is needed on the field; not in the shower room.

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