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PlayStation triggers a Filipino fairytale

sports Updated: Sep 08, 2011 00:26 IST

AFP
Highlight Story

With boyish good looks, tutelage at Chelsea and a large dose of luck - courtesy a computer game - two British-born brothers are stirring an unlikely football fever in the Philippines.

The beautiful game has for the first time pinched some of the limelight from basketball, the nation's favourite sport.

With their potent mix of skill and celebrity, the national team, nicknamed the Azkals (street dogs), have wooed patriotic Filipinos through a series of gutsy World Cup pre-qualifying games.

At the centre of Azkal-mania are the half-Filipino Younghusband brothers, 24-year-old Phil, a striker, and his brother James, 25, a central midfielder.

Their rise from the fringes of Chelsea to the heart of a national side owes a lot to an improbable source --- PlayStation's popular Championship Manager game.

"The story goes that the kid (a researcher) told the PFF (Philippines Football Federation) we were Filipinos playing for Chelsea," says Phil, who reached the Premier League giants' first team while his brother was a reserve.

Desperate to inject top-level overseas experience, the PFF approached Chelsea about the Younghusbands' eligibility.

"Our manager came to us and asked if we were interested in playing for the Philippines. We tried out and joined the national team in 2005," explained Phil.

The Younghusbands have quickly become A-list stars across the island archipelago, drawing a legion of adoring fans - most of them women.