QPR stint a boon for Singapore foursome

QPR stint a boon for Singapore foursome
Singapore teenagers (from left) Andin Addie Djayady, Shanthana Barthi, Saifullah Akbar and Syafiq Irawan during their one-week training stint with Queens Park Rangers. Along with intensive work on and off the pitch and learning to cope with the cold, they were also given the chance to visit Wembley Stadium.

He received an offer to begin life as a professional footballer with an S-League youth team, but Shanthana Barthi gave it up.

"Being given a chance to join Home United's Under-17 COE (Centre of Excellence) in January was very exciting for me," said the teenager. "But this is something better."

The 16-year-old Yuhua Secondary School student was referring to the one-week training stint - enabling him to experience life as a junior professional in England - which ended on Saturday, at Championship (second-tier) side Queens Park Rangers. He returned to Singapore on Sunday.

Without a local club, the Secondary 4 student joined SportCares last year, a youth enrichment programme initiated by the Singapore Sports Council.

Last November, the QPR Community Trust, the club's charitable and community arm, conducted a Singapore coaching clinic made possible by AirAsia, which has sponsorship deals with both the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Harry Redknapp's team. QPR is majority-owned by AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes.

Shanthana and three other FAS National Football Academy (NFA) trainees - Andin Addie Djayady (17), Syafiq Irawan (17) and Saifullah Akbar (15) - impressed the youth coaches and earned the training stint at QPR's academy in west London.

The quartet won praise from QPR Community Trust CEO Andy Evans, who said: "The boys' attitudes have been very positive. They are very open to wanting to improve their game.

"We want to give them the full flavour of what life is like for a professional and the boys have been a pleasure to coach."

As Andin revealed, playing in the 10 deg C temperature has been a challenge.

"We have to wear four layers - tights, short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved jersey and a jacket - when we train."

Saifullah added: "The message they keep reinforcing is we have to keep working hard. There is a lot of emphasis on strength and pace here."

The Singaporean teenagers had five days of training with QPR's academy youngsters. Apart from practising on the pitch, they also did strength and conditioning work in the gym.

In addition, balanced meals of pasta, salad and fruit, monitored by a nutritionist, were prepared for them.

They also mingled with the first-team players and were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of notorious bad boy midfielder Joey Barton.

Packed into their schedules was a trip to Wembley Stadium as well.

Their experience was capped by walking out at Loftus Road as the mascots for the QPR players in the match against Blackpool.

For central midfielder Syafiq, it is still early days to measure his progress but he said: "I can't feel any improvement after one week. But we have learnt a lot and I'm sure we'll see changes to our football when we get home."

Shanthana added: "I have learnt to control the ball and pass it quickly.

"I am taking these important lessons back home and I would like to go for more trials. Hopefully, I can make it into the NFA."


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