Football: From unknowns to big achievers

Football: From unknowns to big achievers

Last year, they could not even form a football team and participate in the Schools National C Division Championships.

Fast forward one year, and Crest Secondary School have made a big imprint on the local football school scene.

From unknowns they became big achievers, after they finished second in the Nationals, beaten by Hong Kah Secondary School in the final.

Crest, a specialised Normal Technical insitute located in Jurong East, is only two years old, beginning operations in 2012.

Slowly but surely they gained recognition as a football force, brushing aside schools like Queensway Secondary and Sembawang Secondary to reach the final.

The transformation came about mainly because they were backed by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim.

"We began operations only in 2012, and by then, Peter Lim was already one of our partners," head of physical education and CCA Mohd Shah Razak told The New Paper recently.

"He began funding our football team, enabling us to get coaches and equipment. Nothing would have been possible without him."

Lim, a known supporter of youth in sports, had to wait to see his investment bear fruit, as Crest's football squad of 34 students fell short of the required 40 that was imposed by the Singapore Schools Sports Council.

But they rallied around and managed to get the numbers right.

Credit also goes to Tohari Paijan, a well-known figure in the local football community who has been Crest's head coach since 2013.

1 DISCIPLINE

"When I first arrived, I saw nothing in the boys that could have proven that they could go far," said the 56-year-old, a former TNP football columnist and Singapore international.

"They played like street footballers, tricks and solo runs and all. They had no tactical discipline. But all that changed after they were given the opportunity to meet Cristiano Ronaldo."

The Real Madrid superstar and former Manchester United striker visited Crest in July last year, on the invitation of Lim, and the Portuguese's interaction with the school's players galvanised them.

"Ronaldo's a big star and an inspiration, and when the boys saw him on stage, they were all inspired. You can say that it was the turning point that made them dream," added Tohari.

One of the team's players, Mohd Hairi Dzulkiflie, a self-confessed Ronaldo fan, was mesmerised by the superstar's presence.

"It felt surreal to see him up on stage. He's the biggest star on the planet and I told myself that if he can make it big, then so can I," said the 13-year-old.

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