Football: A Lion-sized dream

Football: A Lion-sized dream

SINGAPORE - It was fun that first got him hooked on football and that is no surprise because Rusyaidi Salim seems to have a permanent cheeky grin.

Conversations with the 16-year-old fullback are usually punctuated by chuckles and giggles.

But behind that affable smile is a discerning eye and a voracious appetite that have propelled him into the National Football Academy Under-16 side, and could well take his game to the next level.

"I watched a lot of football games with my family, saw Manchester United, saw Arsenal and other teams, watched Ronaldo too, but I really like to see Luke Shaw play," he said.

AMBITION

Expanding on why he likes the Manchester United left back, Rusyaidi said: "He's fast, he overlaps down the wing well and that's something that I can do - I model my game after him."

Rusyaidi keeps a close eye on the local game and, like so many youngsters, he dreams of pulling on the Singapore shirt and running out on the National Stadium pitch.

"Al Qaasimy (Abdul Rahman) is one of our best fullbacks, he's got a lot of upper body strength and is quick, maybe I can be like him," he said of the Lions' right back.

"Maybe I can even be better than him," he added, smiling.

And work has already started.

"I need to improve my stamina and speed, but the hardest thing to do is to get more upper-body strength and I've already drawn up a schedule and started working out in the gym," he declared.

Rusyaidi is one of six nominees for The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award. He is over the moon knowing that he is part of an elite group, describing it as a "big deal" for him.

But he has bigger dreams, going beyond Singapore shores.

"Midfielders and forwards are different, they get more limelight than defenders.

"But I hope that I can get a trial overseas, just a chance to prove that I can play," he said.

"The dream is to play outside of Singapore."

It all started for him at the Football Association of Singapore Junior Football Academy, the precursor to the Junior Centre of Excellence.

"My uncle brought me for one of those sessions and it was great," he said, thinking back to his time out on the pitch under the watchful eyes of FAS technical director Slobodan Pavkovic and former Singapore international R Suria Murthi.

"I had never been involved in any sort of official training session before and I learnt loads of new stuff, with new people - it was fun."

"It's still fun now," he added, chuckling.

"But it'll be more fun when I get better."

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