On Monday I was able to listen to both perspectives of the brewing conflict between the PFF and the Younghusband brothers. I attended a press conference of the PFF and then a private interview with the brothers. Here is what the two sides had to say.
"I gave them the time they needed for extra-sports (sic) activities again and again, and again, and again. And then it comes to a point where it's just not acceptable in front of all the other players."
These were the words of Azkals coach Michael Weiss when he explained to the press yesterday why James and Phil Younghusband would not be selected for the national team for the Philippine Football Peace Cup this coming week.
"I cannot demand full service from players who give up their life in Germany, from Belgium, players from the States, in order to join this team, and then two of my players, 50% of the time are not there" continued the German coach.
"They performed, but now they overstretched a little bit too much and then eventually the process comes to a point where you have to make a decision for the people. And then they are shocked; they can never be shocked because it is foreseeable that we come to a certain point, and this point is now here, as much incredible and sad as it might be.
Weiss was obviously referring to news reports of the brothers' being "shocked" that they had been dropped.
The crisis has stemmed from the four-month contract that the team wants all of the players to sign for the lead-up to the Suzuki Cup. Apparently the Younghusbands refused to sign the contract as is, and sent out a counter-offer of their own with different terms and allowance payments.
"They offered all the players a contract," added Phil in an interview later in the day. "We negotiated based on our other contracts. Our time with one team is the same as our time with another team."
"We had a meeting with the PFF and they said our request is unacceptable. We said 'Okay, we'll base the numbers on whatever you said before.'"
This was in effect agreeing to the original monetary terms. But the last offer of the Younghusbands had one caveat: they did not want to blindly commit to off-the-field activities.
James said "the contract was very general. (It said) we'll attend all advertising events and promotions. But there will be days when we have to work. We are the breadwinners. Things need to be detailed and planned before."
"Football is not at that level yet where you can live solely on football," says Phil. "You have to adapt to the situation. When your schedule is busy, it's difficult to adapt. They say 100% but it's impossible. You'll miss one (activity) there, one here."
Added James: "Nowhere else is a national team, football-wise, treated as full-time. International football is part-time. It's not even a job. It's for the love of playing for your country."
"Commitment-wise, when it comes to the pitch (training and games), we always want to commit," said Phil. "From now on till Suzuki Cup, we can commit. We'd only miss two days of the Middle East trip because of the Singapore Cup. And after that we're with the national team. We cannot commit 100% to off-the-field stuff."
The club team of the brothers, Loyola Meralco Sparks, has reached the Singapore Cup semifinals, which will be a two-legged affair in Singapore on October 4 and 7 against Tampines Rovers. Should they defeat Tampines over two legs, there will be a one-game final on October 28 against either Gombak United or Singapore Armed Forces Football Club.
The Azkals will have a training camp in Bahrain in early October with tune-up games on October 12 versus Bahrain in Manama then on October 16 in Kuwait versus the Kuwait team that knocked them out of the 2014 World Cup.
The brothers are willing to fly straight to Bahrain from Singapore after the semifinals. "We can't commit for all of October because of the Singapore Cup; with regards to Bahrain, we said please coordinate with the club," said one of the brothers.
"We never said we are unavailable for that," added James, referring to the Bahrain camp. This is in contrast with what PFF director for Communications and Marketing Ebong Joson said in the press conference.
"There are non-economic demands with regards to schedules, and as an example, they said they are not free for the whole of October for any matches," said Joson.
Joson, himself a former National Team player, spoke of the honor of being an Azkal.
"We don't see it as a job. It's an honor, a privilege, and there is no peso value you can put to the honor of wearing the flag for country."
Joson also reiterated the fact that this was not a sanction, nor a ban, nor a permanent exclusion from the team.
"This is not a sanction. They were just not selected. The coaching staff wanted to choose the best players, and this was a decision made by everyone."
This was apparently to counter criticism of Weiss, who some fans have blamed for the decision.
The Younghusbands are also angered by an incident last Saturday during a scrimmage between Loyola and the Azkals in Nuvali, which ended in a 2-0 Azkals victory.
"We were asked to play for both teams, which seems fair," says Phil. "One half each. I brought uniforms for both teams."
"When I arrived at ground, I got a call from Coach Weiss and was told, 'Don't play for the Azkals. Just play for Meralco today. I'm not happy about this, but this is Football.' He told me to tell James."
"We spoke with some of the (Azkals) players and the team talk was 'Phil and James have chosen to play for Meralco.' Understandably this did not sit well with the players and staff. They thought we had abandoned the Azkals, which was not the case."
"We were told to play for Meralco and we follow coach's orders. So that caused friction between us and the other players."
"They came to us at halftime," said James. "Some players were telling us the team is confused. We told then to tell the rest of the team (that they were told only to play for Meralco)."
"At halftime we went over and explained everything . Some players did not take a liking to it and took it against us."
"I have a slight issue with trust with coach Weiss," admitted Phil. "That can only be resolved with a sit down."
For Weiss, poor conditioning is another reason why the brothers were left off.
"The player coming in must have a strict regime (sic). The football player is drinking, sleeping, resting, training, and this repeats itself. This is his life. Without that life it will be difficult to perform at a high level.
"In the case of Phil and James, when you have to go from one appointment, to another TV station, from one shoot and then you go to Kenny Rogers to grill some steaks, and then you have a football school and then you come to training like this (makes a tired expression with eyes closed) eventually it will take a toll. And they thought they are still in the condition from when they came from Chelsea, but they are not.
"I told the players if you don't undergo this training schedule you will drop step by step. Now you still benefit from the past, but it (conditioning) will go, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast."
When told about these statements, James answered that he could have been selected but benched if Weiss felt that his fitness was not peak.
On the other hand, the Younghusbands feel that miscommunication is to blame.
"Last Thursday Attorney Ed (Gastanes, the PFF legal counsel) calls a meeting," recounts Phil. "Weiss is not there, no Dan (Palami), no Nonong (Araneta, the PFF head), and Attorney Ed said he is the messenger."
It was here where the terms of the contract, the offers and counter-offers, were discussed.
"I specifically asked him; the problem is communication. I tell him maybe it doesn't come back the right way. He answered 'Phil you dont know me. Whatever is said here will be relayed back to them.' Obviously it hasn't (been)."
At the close of my interview with the brothers I asked them "if PFF goes to you and says 'here are the numbers(allowances and bonuses), try to go to as many off-field activities as you can, and go to all the training sessions and camps, will you sign that?"
They answered yes, with the release of their club team.
But Weiss and the rest of the PFF staff are still not happy about their unwillingness to go the whole nine yards with all the activities, even off-the-field ones.
"The fact that they can only be with the team when their schedule allows them is of course not tolerable," said Weiss. "If I were to accept that then I would have to quit my job; I cannot look into the faces of the other players. That was just too much."
"They have to keep their promise. We were sitting in Alabang in a restaurant in June and in August (when apparently a promise was made). I said, 'I cannot tolerate anymore that you are not with the team most of the time, or lots of the time, and also your physical conditioning is very low.'
"The plan is very clear. In September we have a South East Asian tour, in October we have a Bahrain camp, then we go to Japan in the beginning of November. So you have to attend all the practices. That gives us three months, September, October, November, to make you top fit.
"They said, "Coach we will only miss one match in Laos because of the death (anniversary ) of our mother.'"
So the Younghusbands will miss the Peace Cup as players. But for sure they will be big fans, watching on TV.
"We support our teammates. We hope they do well," said Phil.
The PFF was very clear in stating that the door is not closed for the brothers to return to the team. And for certain the brothers feel the same way.
"They have made a decision that we are not in the lineup," James said. "When they say we are back in the lineup, we'll be there."
You can follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.