The three-year-old rivalry has finally been settled. Last night, the University of Makati Football Field once again became the battleground for one of the most highly contested sibling rivalries between brothers James and Phil Younghusband. After two games, two wins, two defeats, and 12 goals scored, the third and final installment of Clear Dream Match, the biggest all star football game in the Philippines, finally happened.
In 2012, the first ever Clear Dream Match hailed Team Phil as the winner with a dominant 5-1 victory. Last year, Team James got even, exacting revenge with a 4-1 score against Team Phil. With the brothers tied at 1-1, the game this 2014 was made more exciting with the participation of two Manchester United Legends -- Paul Scholes and Andy Cole.
As I posted last month, fans of both teams got to join in the Legends decision-making by scoring points for their favorite teams online. The captain with the most active and digitally engaged fans gets to pick the first Legend. Phil won the final online points tally and chose Scholes to be part of his team.
Paul Scholes, who is an 11-time English Premier League Winner, expressed excitement on his Philippines visit. "It's always a great experience to visit a country where football is a growing sport." Cited as one of the best midfielders of his generation, Scholes has made over 700 appearances for Manchester United and has the third-highest number of appearances by any player for the club. He also played a key part in the club's Treble-winning success in the 1998-99 season.
On the other hand, Andrew Cole became part of Team James whose captain pointed out that it would be great to have Cole on his team. "Team James wants to score several goals, and having the second highest goal scorer in English Premier League history on your team is such a huge asset."
Cole has won numerous trophies with Manchester United and is one of the few players to date who has bagged all possible honors in the English game, including the PFA Young Player of the Year and the UEFA Champions League title. "We have so many Manchester United fans in Asia, and I'm really excited to meet the 12 million United followers in the Philippines," shared Cole.
Having been at the games since the first one two years ago, I was as excited as everyone who came to watch last night. Many rejoiced when Joaco Cañas of Team James made the first score during the second half of the game. But a hush settled over the whole field when Phil and Ryan Villareal got hurt in a head collision while they were both trying to hit the ball.
Although Ryan was able to get up and continue to play, we all got worried when Phil stayed down then got carried out on a stretcher, sporting a bloodied bandage on his forehead. It became even more worrisome when we heard ambulance sirens start up then fade away outside the stadium.
Although the game did go on, as it had to, and ended with a 1-0 win in favor of Team James, the victory was bittersweet. We could see how worried James was about his brother while trying to celebrate with his team. The victors were awarded the trophy and individual medals by Unilever executives Apples Aberin, Drew Copuyoc, and Joanne Lorenzana.
I went home with a heavy heart because I have interacted with the Younghusbands in several media events before (Phil even served as our team captain in a fun Oishi event a few months ago) and find them really good persons. So it was with relief when I saw Clear organizers' update about Phil earlier today.
Now, the three-year journey has been concluded but here's wishing for better things to come for Philippine football and our dedicated players. May you continue to inspire young people with lessons learned on the playing field that can also be applied to real life.
The Clear Dream Match is presented by Clear in partnership with Manchester United. Thank you Unilever and Bridges PR for inviting me to these epic games the past three years!
* Click the following links to see photos from Clear Dream Match 1, Clear Dream Match 2, and Clear Dream Match 3.