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Young Heroes Show Promise in Gritty Display

Our under-15 and under-16 boys have given the fans something to sing about. (Photo: SSC)

Adam Swandi, Hanafi Akbar, Dhukhilan Jeevamani, R Aaravin, Illyas Lee. Remember these names.

 

Just like how Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy, Indra Shadan Daud and Hariss Harun have become household names, these players showed heart, passion, speed and skills during the recently concluded 23rd Cannon Lion City Cup tournament and they look ready for bigger things.

 

There is renewed optimism surrounding the future of local football as more than 5,000 football fans packed into the Jalan Besar Stadium to watch the Singapore's under-15 demolish Italian powerhouse Juventus 4-0 to clinch third place while witnessing the Republic's under-16 team push Brazil's Flamengo for 90 minutes, only to succumb 4-3 in the dreaded penalty kicks.

 

Major-General Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports shared his thoughts on the matches and also the tournament with the media before the post match press conference. “I am very proud of both teams. We have a pipeline of very good young players now and I am very confident of them and look forward to continue to move on to the next stage. We look forward to further success from this batch of talented youngsters.”

 

His sentiments were shared by the tens of thousands of die-hard Singapore fans who flocked in to cheer on our boys. Said Marcus Tan, 44, a lifelong Lions fan, “When I first heard that we were playing against teams like Juventus and Flamengo, I was slightly nervous of our chances,” confessed Tan.

 

“But right from the first whistle our boys gave it everything. They played attractive football on the ground and had very good positioning, which shows good understanding and teamwork. If this is the future of Singapore football, then I think we have every reason to be very optimistic for the future”

 

The under-16s have gone from strength to strength since clinching the Bronze medal in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore last year.

 

Despite losing talismanic captain Jeffery Adam Lightfoot, stand-in captain Dhukhilan Jeevamani joined forces with right back turned central defender Illyas Lee and together were able to keep Flamengo, Juventus and Everton at bay.

 

With all the matches being shown on 'LIVE' on Starhub, Adam Swandi and Hanafi Akbar thrilled Singapore fans with their silky skills and attacking moves and were able to create countless chances for their teammates.

 

The under-15's Azhar Ramli and under-16's Hazim Hassan were able to profit the most as they ended up top scorers of the tournament.

 

Despite the obvious size differences between Singapore teams and their European and South American counterparts, they put never shirked from a challenge and gave it all they had, running hard till the final whistle.

 

Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric was very impressed with what he saw.

 

“I am really impressed with what I saw. I was actually surprised at the standard that was put up, especially the Singapore teams. They were able to compete with the European and South American teams. They were able to play confidently against different style of teams and never gave up.”

 

When quizzed about which player caught his eyes, the all time leading goal scorer in the S.League was quick to talk about strikers.

 

“As a striker I am always looking at them. The under-16s number 13 (Hazim Hassan) really impressed me. Even though he missed a couple of chances in the final, it was obvious he has the nose for goal. You can't really teach these and he put himself about to get into good scoring positions.”

 

Another player that caught Duric's eye was under-16 captain, Dhukhilan. “I was very impressed with him. He has a very good understanding of the game he looks like one to watch out in the future.

 

The 41 year old Duric had some final words of encouragement to the Singapore players, “They should remember this tournament and that they have experienced. It is a good experience for them as they have played against quality opposition from around the world and they need to learn from this."

 

“As young players, they will make mistakes but they need to learn from those mistakes and grow as footballers,” added Duric.

 

The under-15s will now head to Laos from July 5 to 21 for the ASEAN Football Federation tournament. Their main target is a good performance in September's Asian Football Confederation age-group tournament qualifiers in North Korea.