The footballer also known as prince

He commanded attention as the Brunei Under-23 football team strolled into the Bukit Gombak Stadium for their final training session ahead of tonight's SEA Games opener against Vietnam U-23s.

While Faiq Bolkiah, the teenager at the centre of curious stares and a flurry of mobilephone snapshots, seemed unmoved by the commotion, two other men took notice. The duo were Faiq's personal bodyguards and one of them even whipped out his mobilephone to take pictures of the assembled media and jot down notes.

A current member of the Chelsea Under-18 squad, Faiq's exploits on the football pitch are not the only reason he is the focus of attention - the 17-year-old is also the nephew of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who is one of the richest men in the world. In 2008, Forbes reported the monarch's net worth to be US$20 billion (S$27 billion).

As captain and striker of the Bruneian side that will hope to steer their way past a tough Group B, which includes Thailand, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Laos, Faiq is eager to help his team rule.

"Hopefully we can get past the group stages in this tournament and for that to happen, we need to work really hard," he told The Straits Times.

"I hope to bring my strengths, which are my speed and dribbling, to help the team as much as I can."

This is not Faiq's first competition in Singapore. In 2013, when he played for Arsenal's U-15s, he scored the opener for the Gunners when they beat the Singapore U-16s 2-1 in the Lion City Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The prince, who joined Chelsea last year after spells with Arsenal and Reading, revealed that being with the Blues has helped him to improve. In England, he operates mainly as a winger.

He said: "I have definitely grown as a player while at Chelsea. The tempo that we train at in Chelsea is really high when compared to the standards in Asia, so hopefully that will be my advantage."

Having trained with Jose Mourinho's senior team on a few occasions this year, Faiq is quick to answer when asked who is his role model.

"Eden Hazard," he gushed.

"I watched him closely during training and he really is the type of player that I aspire to be.

"His dribbling and the ability to cut in and deal damage in the central areas are the kind of qualities that I want to have in my game."

Faiq will be in action this afternoon as Brunei take on Vietnam in the Group B opener at Bishan Stadium.

The sultanate's SEA Games coach, former Singapore goalkeeper Stephen Ng, said the prince is a starter purely on football merit.

Ng said: "He (Faiq) has played in Europe so he brings a lot of experience to the team. He is our key player and he brings a special dimension to our side."

This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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