Pro hopes after Pennant visit

Football used to be just an after-school hobby for Mr Muhd Alfie Aasriq.

But thanks to a surprise visit by Tampines Rovers winger Jermaine Pennant, Mr Muhd Alfie now wants to turn professional.

Mr Muhd Alfie, 20, a full-time national serviceman, says: "I thought I was dreaming. I could not believe I'm meeting someone who used to play for my favourite team, Arsenal.

"I feel very inspired by him. I would like to go further, work harder and become a coach."

He was one of 80 underprivileged and "at risk" young people from SportCares who had the chance to talk and play football with Pennant at Yio Chu Kang Stadium yesterday.

SportCares, which has around 400 young people under its wing, organises free training sessions for its participants every week.

The former Arsenal and Liverpool winger's visit was one of SportCares' "biggest highlights" in its three years of existence, says its spokesman.

For two hours, Pennant shared his experiences and entertained questions from the group of youths about football.

He tells The New Paper on Sunday that meeting players like Mr Muhd Alfie brought back memories for him.

The English footballer says: "Oh, when I was at their age, I was probably doing the same as them. Everywhere I went, the football went along as well.

"I didn't come from a very good background myself. I didn't have rich parents, I wasn't from the upper class."

Pennant also spoke about the importance of education as a backup for young people who hope to embark in a career in football.

"Professionally, (football) can be very hard. I was probably one of the lucky ones who made the most of it," he adds.


He feels that SportCares is doing a good job of nurturing youngsters from complicated backgrounds.

"Programmes like this definitely keep them off the streets and out of trouble, (helps them) meet new friends and avoid the dangers out there that can lead you astray," says Pennant.

For Mr Muhd Alfie at least, meeting one of his heroes has taught him an important lesson about football - personal fitness.

Mr Muhd Alfie, proudly sporting an Arsenal jersey that Pennant autographed, says: "I used to think fitness isn't that important in football.

"Now that he has said it, I have got to work harder."

This article was first published on March 27, 2016.
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