Manufacturing Celebrity

Photo courtesy of the AzkalsFootballTeam.com - The Official Website

Photo courtesy of the AzkalsFootballTeam.com – The Official Website

I’m writing this tale because I’m sick to death of so many injustices, and a sadness about a strange syndrome here in the Philippines where foreign looks is a key to gaining celebrity status. I am British and wish to not be hurtful towards someone like Phil Younghusband, but what can I say when he plays his game not too well on the pitch and becomes such an opportunist off it.

He was raised in England of an English father and a Filipina mother. Yet he’s been prepared to eat from the bottom of the tank and therefore became a part of everything that is wrong about celebrity culture in the Philippines. Not just because he rode the tide of interest in his foreign looks but because he so undeservedly became a created celebrity. In fact, the question I’m asking is how did he become a celebrity at all? I don’t begrudge a man a career, just as long as others know that that is exactly what it is about, a man’s career. He seems to be entitled to it mainly because he plays the game, and I don’t mean football, but because he’s half foreign which makes him a great package for advertisers. He has stepped into a world of celebrity which in his case is built on being foreign, because if you examine his career, it really doesn’t stand up as anything.

He turned professional at Chelsea back in March 2005. He was with Chelsea from the age of 9. That’s not too unusual these days in the world of football. I will give credit where it is due and say that being taken on by a rich club like Chelsea is no mean feat. His youth career was impressive enough but there must be thousands of half decent youths around eagerly signed by clubs just in case they are missing a talent. What happens after is where the real test is. Well putting it briefly he never really made the grade. No first team appearances
not even when he was farmed out on loan to top flight Danish club Esbjerg. Chelsea obviously never fancied him and he was cut loose presumably after being told, we don’t think you have what it takes, son.

Okay, I’m not holding any of this against him as he is far from alone at not making the grade. It’s a tough business and unfortunately it never happened for him in England. It would appear nobody else came in for him out of the million or so clubs at all levels worldwide so time to change life plan, and change life plan he certainly did.

The Celebrity Creation

Photo courtesy of Phil Younghusband's Instagram account

Photo courtesy of Phil Younghusband’s Instagram account

So how does a footballer that has failed to make the grade as a professional become a celebrity in the Philippines? That’s an excellent question and I’m not sure I know the answer. In a country desperately short of footballers of any quality, he managed to become selected for the Philippines national squad, the Azkals (derived from a local term for street dogs).

Some time after he came to the Philippines he joined a local outfit San Beda before moving on to his current club Loyola Meralco Sparks.

I’m not sure of the timing but somewhere before in all this, he and his brother James began a football academy acquiring Phil level 2 UEFA coaching badge, and James level one. Not sure whether this was started by sponsors or whether the academy was a venture of the Younghusbands’ own.

Along with his brother James, Phil Younghusband enjoyed virtual automatic selection for the Philippines national squad which they were entitled to through their Filipina mother. No real controversy there as the Philippines does have a shortage of quality footballers; it’s simply not a football country.

Then as fortune would have it, the Philippines football team, somewhat starved of any success for many years reached the semi finals of the 2010 Suzuki cup which was a 2 leg affair with both legs having to be held in Indonesia in front of crowds of 70,000 for the first leg and a massive 88,000 for the second leg. The reason for this was that no stadium in the Philippines was up to the minimum standard meaning for larger tournaments they could not play on home soil. The Philippines lost both legs 1-0 and they enjoyed a new lease of life and suddenly in a country that hardly knew what football was, the Azkals suddenly became a huge focus of the local media.

The story virtually petered out from there as regards the football. What seemed to happen next was the Azkals became marketable with the Younghusbands being the most marketable of all due to their foreign looks. It would appear that Phil very happily took up his new new role. Suddenly, sponsorships from television and other leading companies of the whole Azkal’s circus meant that
football became second to the modeling career and brand endorsements. Other members of the squad who were equally as talented as footballers weren’t as marketable as they’re full blood Filipinos. Phil and James went from strength to strength becoming brand endorsers especially Phil.

Phil with Angel Locsin (taken from his Instagram account)

Phil with Angel Locsin (taken from his Instagram account)

His celebrity status was then taken up a notch by an alleged relationship with leading Filipina actress and singer Angel Locsin. Both had the same sponsors
and I have no idea about the validity of that relationship or whether it was simply contrived as it does seem to be the way of things when creating marketable packages such as Phil Younghusband.

Then the inevitable story after the relationship has run its course, the split up. With many products to endorse onboard and after interviews on celebrity TV about the relationship with Angel etc, a career is cemented and I think you know the rest.

What happened to the football in all this, I have no idea. It seemed to be becoming secondary as the Younghusband brothers got deeper into brand endorsements. The inevitable happened and Philippines national coach Michael Weiss, a German whose job it was to actually select a national football squad, decided to not include them in his plans. It seemed extracurricular activities being the reasoning and you can’t really blame him.

I may be missing something but the rest of the squad doesn’t seem to be overly brand endorsing and still play for the Philippines. The ones of full Filipino blood probably the most overlooked when it comes to demonstrating ways to avoid the white stuff on your shoulders along with other things.

What’s the point behind this tale of formerly unemployed footballers becoming celebrities in the Philippines? Well, I will allow you to connect the dots yourself, but I can’t help but wonder how Filipinos must feel watching the glorification of a character built on not success but on having brand-able foreign looks. Strangely, out of the two, it was Phil who appears to have stage managed a greater career out of it whilst his better looking brother James has not been as manufactured.

I also tell you this to point out something a little ugly within Filipino media culture. I have no idea where this leaves the football. How long will it last? Time will tell.

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3 Comments

Filed under Impressions, Manila, Philippine Football, Philippines

3 responses to “Manufacturing Celebrity

  1. It says a lot about his lack of skills when he has played more games for the Philippines than he has played club games. I would guess that any Brit that put time into training their sons could probably get them to the same level.

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    • Well lets say played no first team games at any level outside the Philippines. Pure celebrity creation and get away with it because they don’t even know here that he never made it. His academy website likes to make much of him being ex Chelsea, it doesn’t mention he never got a game and was basically terminated.

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  2. probably because he is white. Filipinos nowadays can’t see the talent as long as the person is white/fair skinned and has the looks. Daniel Padilla can’t act and sing but look at him. look at Chieffy, he deserves more than the Younghusbands but does he get the credit?

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