The man responsible for transforming one of the world’s weakest football programs into a winning one in Asia has officially retired at the age of 32.
Philip James Placer Younghusband, the sport’s most beloved in this basketball-crazy nation, hung his boots Monday after 22 years of competitive football, 13 of which were spent for the Philippine men’s football team dubbed as the Azkals.
“Hanging up my boots! Thank you to my bosses, my coaches, team mates, competitors and all the supporters who have been part of my journey. See you all soon in a new adventure,” Younghusband announced on his Instagram account.
He leaves the game as the greatest Filipino player of all-time, having scored 52 international goals in his illustrious career, joining the likes Romelu Lukaku of Belgium and Javier Hernandez of Mexico in this elite club.
Younghusband began his competitive football career at the age of nine for Chelsea in the Premier League and in 2005 was accidentally discovered by a Filipino gamer, who discovered Younghusband’s Filipino roots on videogame Football Manager.
After spending a year with the Under-23 team where he scored two goals in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, Younghusband debuted for the Azkals in the qualifying tournament for the 2007 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship in November 2006 in a losing effort against Laos.
The Azkals, then ranked 195 in the world, won three straight games, with Younghusband scoring six goals, making him the tournament top scorer as the Philippines barged in to the championship round but lost all three games.Embed from Getty Images
The Azkals when they made a breakthrough in the 2010 AFF, when they reached the semifinal round after beating powerhouse Vietnam, 2-0, with Younghusband scoring the second goal.
It was all uphill for the Azkals for the next eight years, with Younghusband scoring 40 international goals in that span, including the winning goal against Tajikistan in March 2018 that sent the Azkals to the 2019 Asian Cup for the first time in history. However, numerous injuries slowed his body down during that span, making him a reserve in the 2018 AFF and 2019 Asian Cup.
Younghusband scored his last international goal against Timor-Leste in the 2018 AFF and earned his last cap against Kyrgyzstan in the 2019 Asian Cup. He retired with the Philippines ranking 123rd in the world, leaving brother James and star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge as the remaining remnants of the historic 2010 AFF squad.