Ginger prince spices up Jalan Besar

Ginger prince spices up Jalan Besar
Courts Young Lions striker, Sheril El-Masri try stopping Paul Scholes from getting pass him during the clinic held at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Under the blistering sun, Paul Scholes kept wiping his ginger brow.

The coconut husk infills on the Jalan Besar pitch, meant to give the turf a cooler surface temperature, had little effect under 36 deg C temperatures.

Still, the former Manchester United midfielder, in Singapore to help launch Courts' 40th anniversary celebrations, pushed on during the training session with 40 youths from the Special Olympics and East View Secondary School.

He ran the drills, demonstrated the passes and took a breather only when he needed to coach a young footballer or pose for photographs with gushing officials and journalists.


A proud Liverpool supporter, I took an early prejudiced view of the Ginger Prince, who made over 700 appearances for United and retired from the game last year at the age of 38.

But my stance changed when he struck his trademark volley, just five metres from me.

With his very first attempt, off a cross from a Courts Young Lions player, Scholes shifted his 39-year-old body and arrowed the ball from outside the penalty box into the bottom corner.

Throughout his 21-year career, the United legend had struck such net-embracing beauties at Old Trafford, Wembley, and even the Stade Velodrome - for England, at the 1998 World Cup against Tunisia.

Yesterday, the Jalan Besar Stadium was another venue where Scholes, a member of Fergie's Fledglings, left his calling card.

Watching the former playmaker casually work the ball for just a few moments, it's easy to understand why so many football experts once labelled Scholes as one of the best players to have graced the Premiership.

His reputation as a reserved, shy individual off the pitch was also evident.

Though he received cordially all who approached him, Scholes wasn't too vocal with the kids.

Even during a football clinic, he preferred to let his feet do the talking.

His United teammate Roy Keane once highlighted that he liked Scholes because he constantly shunned the "celebrity" side of professional sport.

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