Azkals Phil and James Younghusband lead Meralco Sparks in the UFL

By Joey Villar
The Manny V. Pangilinan Group of Companies, which maintains two teams in the PBA and one in the V-League will now get involved in local football after acquiring the Loyola Agila FC which it will field in the United Football League, as the Meralco Sparks.
The Sparks are bringing in a star-studded cast spearheaded by Azkals stars Phil and James Younghusband and fellow Fil-Brits Mark, Darren and Matthew Hartmann along with Korean coach Kim Seung Hee in the UFL 2011-2012 Season campaign starting Oct. 8.
“Our team is like a family affair,” said Pangilinan in Wednesday night’s press conference at the Meralco administration building in Pasig City launching the new-look Sparks.
“Football was not my fave sport but I think it’s the world’s most popular spectator sport and I’m glad to see that football has become popular in the country.
“We’re very happy to support the sport through Meralco and I do hope the other group of companies will adopt their teams so that we can show full support to the sport,” said Pangilinan, who is also the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and chair of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.
Al Panlilio, a Meralco executive who heads the MVP Sports Foundation, for his part, said they’re hoping to win championships with the Younghusbands, Hartmanns and Kim, who coached Manchester United’s midfielder Park Ji Sung at Miyonji years back, at the helm.
“We’ve signed up the Younghusbands for three years and along with the Hartmanns, we’re hoping to win several championships in the UFL,” said Panlilio, who was the man behind the successful staging of two games pitting a stellar NBA cast against a PBA selection team and Smart Gilas Pilipinas in the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend last July.
Pangilinan, whose firms own Talk N’ Text and Meralco in the PBA and Maynilad in the V-League, said he will fully support the Sparks.
Phil and James, who are mainstays of the Azkals team, will play alongside Mark and Matthew, who will be part of the Under-23 team competing in the 26th Southeast Asian Games slated Nov. 11-25 in Palembang and Jakarta, Indonesia, along with eldest brother Darren, who already played for the Azkals years back.
“Last year we had a dream, now Mr. MVP made it a reality,” said Phil Younghusband. Published in The Philippine Star