Football: YOG star Hanafi Akbar arrested for drug offences

Football: YOG star Hanafi Akbar arrested for drug offences
BRIGHT POTENTIAL, BUT... Hanafi Akbar began skipping training while he was with the NFA U-18 in 2013. He enlisted for NS last year.

SINGAPORE - Footballer Hanafi Akbar, who starred for Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), was arrested for drug offences on Wednesday morning.

The New Paper understands that the 19-year-old, once considered one of Singapore football's most exciting prospects, was arrested at around 5am outside his home and was taken to Bedok Police Station.

When contacted yesterday, his father Akbar Abu Bakar confirmed that police had called his home to inform him of Hanafi's arrest, but no further details were revealed.

As of last night, Hanafi, who is serving his National Service (NS) with the Singapore Police Force, was still in remand at the police station and under interrogation.

"My wife called me at 7.30am (on Wednesday) and she was crying," Akbar told The New Paper.

"I thought Hanafi had met with an accident or something. Then she said he had been arrested.

"We have not seen him and we don't have any information from the police yet. They told us to wait for the IO (investigation officer) to call."

According to Akbar, this was the first time his son has been arrested by police.

Hanafi, who turns 20 on Feb 7, was part of the much-vaunted 2010 YOG bronze-winning football team.

Dubbed the "Gelek Prince" for his dribbling skills, he attracted interest from the Tottenham Hotspur Academy and youth coaches from Italian club Juventus soon after.

But, over the past two years, the fleet-footed attacker's development has not gone to plan, owing to disciplinary issues.

He skipped training with the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-18 team in 2013 and eventually quit the team.

A few coaches wrote him off at the time, labelling him a "rebel", before S.League club Balestier Khalsa offered him a new lease of life in December that year.

He signed a two-year deal with the Toa Payoh-based club's Prime League team and made a few appearances in the S.League before enlisting for NS in the middle of last year.

Balestier chairman S Thavaneson was surprised when TNP informed him of Hanafi's arrest yesterday.

NO TROUBLE

"We never had trouble with him, except for some missed training sessions - but I had no clue he was into any kind of drug

involvement," Thava said.

"He is an extremely talented young player. We took him even with his disciplinary issues because we wanted to help him.

"We worked on his football development and tried to be a strong influence on his life outside of the sport.

"I don't want to pass judgment but, if it's true that he's involved with drugs, perhaps this is a good wake-up call for him."

Thava explained that Hanafi's contract with Balestier had been suspended since he enlisted for NS, although there are still 18 months left.

The 66-year-old added that the club will still help the player when his NS ends. "Let the authorities investigate his case, but he must understand that if he is involved in drugs, there is no way he can play football," Thava said.


This article was first published on January 30, 2015.
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