Fields of Dreams and For This Younghusband, A Vision for the Future

Originally posted in Pinoyfootball.

If further proof was needed to substantiate the claim that football in the Philippines was here to stay, it is the fact that Chelsea FC, one of England’s top-flight football clubs, has partnered with Phil and James Younghusband’s The Younghusband Football Academy (TYFA) to open a soccer school in the country.

While the official launch of the Chelsea Soccer School is still on May 15, Chelsea FC Soccer School summer camps for boys and girls, implemented by TYFA, will begin this April.

Paul Kam, Chairman of ProEvents, which handles Chelsea’s events and activities in Asia and which has had business relations with the club since 1995, shared that this initiative is part of Chelsea’s “Here to Play, Here to Stay” campaign. This campaign is testament to Chelsea’s continued engagement with its supporters throughout Asia, as well as its commitment to developing football in the region.

A key component of the “Here to Play, Here to Stay” campaign is Blue Pitch, jointly implemented by Chelsea and ProEvents, which is the club’s grassroots football development in Asia. As its name suggests, Blue Pitch is an artificial blue turf intended to provide opportunities for children to play football, in partnership with local entities and Chelsea’s football coaches.

“In 2008, when my company handled Chelsea’s Asia Tour, we asked what legacy program could be introduced to the countries that Chelsea visited,” shared Kam, pointing out that youth development was the apparent answer.

“I’m very happy to have the brothers support this and have the Blue Pitch in the Philippines,” he added. “This is a very unique partnership for us.” Kam also shared that there would be about six to seven Blue Pitches in Asia by next year, and this could give birth to other activities such as football exchange programs and tournaments for children.

For their part, the Younghusband brothers expressed gratitude for being approached by Chelsea for such an opportunity.

“We’re over the moon, and we’re excited for the future of football,” remarked Phil Younghusband at the press conference announcing the establishment of the Chelsea FC Soccer School. “It is a milestone for Philippine football, but hopefully, this is the start of something promising and exciting.” He added that in their experience with the Chelsea academy, the club not only teaches kids to be good football players, but to be good people as well.

Meanwhile, James Younghusband revealed more than just gratitude at the prospects of even doing more for Philippine football.

“Me and my brother, we’ve had our ups and downs in the Philippines when it comes to football,” James candidly revealed. “But this (Chelsea FC Soccer School) is a big step for Philippine football, and we’re really proud to be part of it. We really want to help young kids to go onto achieving great things for the country through football.”

At the sides of the press conference, James further expounded on his thoughts. “Football has changed a lot since we first came to the Philippines,” he continued. “We wanted to get involved with the national team, and that was our way of promoting the sport. It worked out quite well in the end with the Azkals. Obviously, the interest increased, and we had a lot of people wanting to get involved.”

“But then, you have to think about the opportunity. Is there a place for players to play?” he said. “We want to bring the artificial turf concept here and give the kids a place to play at. That’s the way the Philippines can improve.”

“Each kid, when they start off, they have the same ability as the kids in Europe,” he pointed out. “But the kids in Europe play more football. That’s what we want to do here.”

When asked if this partnership between TYFA and Chelsea FC felt like a full circle of sorts, James flashed that trademark lopsided boyish grin of his and agreed, going on to reveal his dream for grassroots football development in the country: “My dream is to have a football facility everywhere in the Philippines—the capital, the north, the south. We don’t want to limit it to Manila, we want to go out to the provinces.”

It isn’t far-fetched to think that Chelsea’s Blue Pitches may just find the next top-flight right winger for the Azkals, and as for James Younghusband, he would probably be all too satisfied to have been a part of finding and developing the Philippines’ next generation of football heroes.

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