I began my story in sports when I was about 6 or 7 years old.
I started out with the soccer ball with friends from the neighbourhood whom till today, I still have no idea what their names are.
I remember it was fun to play soccer at the void deck every single day. Even if there wasn’t anyone, I would still go down to kick the ball against the wall and then pretend to catch the ball. Eventually, some kids will come down and join me and with no use for formal introductions, it’d change from kicking to the wall to kicking to a leg and then it would grow to a few more legs before the ball would be bouncing off the walls and legs and through the goal posts created by slippers measured by the length of 4-5 footsteps; depending on how many players were playing.
I often ended up playing with boys bigger than my age when I was about 10. These boys were already in secondary school and we’d really enjoy it. The entire day would be spent on playing soccer at the void deck on the weekends. On weekdays, I’d be spending my time kicking the ball with my school soccer team where I played in midfield.
I never knew how good I was until 12 when my coach said that I was picked to join the MILO Soccer Club to train with them. This meant that I was quite good and there were only 2 boys from my school team that were selected to train with the then Centre of Excellence, MILO Soccer Club.
I remember training at Chong Boon Secondary School on Saturdays and very often, the pitch was wet and grass was up to ankle or at some parts, knee level! It was tiring and I’d always make my way down for training on my own. It was something I look forward to and something I knew I could make good on cos eventually, it would lead me to my dream of being a Professional Soccer Player.
BUT things took a turn, it was PSLE and I wasn’t only playing soccer for my school, I was also training with MILO on weekends and was also in the school Track & Field team where I was running the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4 x 100m and Long Jump (I eventually settled for Long Jump instead because it was crazy to do the running events back to back). I was given a scare by my dad when he told me that he’d send me to Indonesia to one of the ‘Pesantren’ to become a religious teacher if I failed my PSLE.
SO, that could only mean one thing, he took away my soccer boots so that I would stop training with MILO. School trainings were over by then, so I had no sports to look forward to and the only thing that I focused on was my studies. It was hard, it wasn’t enjoyable and I hated my dad for it but I passed my PSLE and got into the Express stream.
Then, opportunity came up in Secondary School when I went for a trials with then Sembawang Rangers Football Club. I remember I didn’t have my soccer boots because I couldn’t afford one on my own so I went in a pair of New Balance shoes that I had gotten free for participating in NDP. AND I remember very clearly that during the trials, the coach had commended me and told the rest in that group, “You guys should be passing like him”, referring to me BUT because I didn’t have my boots, he called me up and said, “That’s not soccer boots” and I remember seeing him striking my name off the list.
By this time, I probably realised I should just focus on the house team that I was playing for and the weekend team that I played with. It pains me a lot because most of my school mates and the team I played with were playing for clubs like Sembawang Rangers, Woodlands Wellington and Geylang United. Some were even in the National Team and there were times when they’d ask me, “Why are you not in a club?”
That same question rang again when I was in Polytechnic and although I never made it to the Polytechnic team, I did made it through the trials with Clementi Khalsa and was already in the training with the team when I realised that this was going to be tough.
Tough, because training would increase to every weeknight 530pm-930pm, which meant that I had to stop working and stop being a part of the polytechnic rugby team which I was already playing for as part of the first 15. That also meant that I won’t have time to study at home because classes were usually in the mornings and I was already having trouble staying awake in lectures and tutorials because I was only keeping my energy for training in the evenings.
So, I did the inevitable.
I gave up on my dreams.
On the final day of the selections, I switched positions from playing as a Left-back to that of a Forward. I knew I couldn’t play Forward, so I made that switch. By the end of the final selections, my friend who had went through the trials with me was confused why I had given up because he knew that if I had stuck to my position, I would have made it to the team.
He would know, he was a National goalie at that time.
But it’s not easy when there are so many responsibilities to juggle and when education is just as important.
I wouldn’t say that I have no regrets for what I did but I’m thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had and knowing that I was skilled and talented enough to have perhaps made it big as a professional soccer player.
Although today I no longer play soccer or engage myself in competitive sports because of injuries, together with some friends, I hope that we can inspire the current youths to be champions in both their academics and sports, and be able to spend time with what’s most important – FAMILY.
And we’d like to give a “Sporting Chance for Everyone”, as how we’ve had ours, so that they can create and share their stories.
Singa-sports Academy is our company and we’ll be holding Preview Sessions on our programmes this weekend.
I hope to see you and your child there. Details are available in the poster below.
I would nevertheless like to thank Cikgu Samad for the opportunity and believe he had in me to have selected me, MILO Soccer School for the opportunity and experience, Muhaimin – the national goalie who believed and suggested I went for Clementi Khalsa trials with him, my Athletics Coach in Primary and Secondary school, my Rugby coach – Jamal (who was a National player), my Rugby teammates in poly, my soccer mates from Primary – Poly, Clementi Khalsa coaches for giving me the opportunity to train professionally and lastly, to Jubilee Sports Association and Marsiling Constituency where I eventually played out the rest of my soccer career as a Left-back.
My Dad and Mom too of course for believing in my sporting and academic abilities.
I just hoped you had told me earlier that taking those boots away was a test of my grit and hunger to be a professional soccer player.