Football: A toast to Mahathir Azeman

Football: A toast to Mahathir Azeman

SINGAPORE - September 7 marks the day Brazil gained independence.

It is a national holiday that continues to be celebrated across the country with various displays of patriotism.

On Wednesday, the Shangri-La Hotel played host to Brazil's 191st national day celebration in Singapore, but it was a local boy who edged his way into a share of the limelight.

Singaporean teenager Mahathir Azeman returned from Rio de Janeiro on Monday after a successful five-month spell with the Under-17 squad of Brazilian club side Boavista.

The 17-year-old did well enough to lay claim to the No.10 shirt at Boavista and earn himself a one-year contract extension to play in the reserve team of the club's professional side next year.

In recognition of his achievement, Brazil's ambassador to Singapore, Luis Fernando de Andrade Serra, invited Mahathir to last Wednesday night's party.

"This is something very new for both Brazil and Singapore, and it helps matters that (the boy) is doing very well, and the evidence is there for all to see," said the ambassador.

"He is wearing the No. 10 shirt, and that means something in Brazil, only the most talented players get to wear that shirt."

Mahathir will sit for his 'O' Level examinations in the next two months before a return to Boavista, which is pencilled in for December.

Toast of the night

Hardly distracted by the workload he faces, Mahathir was the toast of the night at Wednesday's celebrations.

Taken to see the ambassador and some of his guests, including Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower, Mahathir hardly batted an eyelid.

"He is doing so well that I'm sure people in Brazil are now attracted to Singapore, and might come here to look for football talent," said the Brazilian ambassador, who believes that Mahathir could be a beacon of unity for the two countries.

"We don't know about many things in Singapore, but Mahathir is helping Singapore become more known in Brazil.

"This is a real exchange between the countries. He could become a symbol of friendship and cooperation."

Mahathir now plays for the Singapore Under-18 team.

Hawazi was clearly proud of the young Singaporean's achievement, and the fact that he dares to dream.

"Singapore and Brazil relationships have often been government to government and business to business, but this (Mahathir's experience with Boavista) is an indication of the strength and warmth of people to people relationships," said Hawazi.

"I hope that Mahathir lights the path for more such collaborations between Singapore and Brazil."

The Siglap Secondary School student has already nudged open the door for more young Singapore hopefuls to follow his path.

The New Paper had earlier reported that Boavista are keen to take more youngsters on board, and are awaiting details from the Football Association of Singapore.

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