SINGAPORE - It was a tap-in that came in a 3-2 defeat by Warriors FC, but it meant the world to Courts Young Lions forward Muhaimin Suhaimi.
After all, you always remember your first and this was the 19-year-old's maiden S.League goal in his debut season.
That effort also made Muhaimin (right) the first player from the 2010 Youth Olympic Games football team to score in the S.League.
"It's a great feeling to get my first professional goal," said Muhaimin, who is a full-time national serviceman with the Singapore Police Force.
"The goal gives me more confidence and will help me to be more composed in future matches as I aim to score more in big matches."
Aide Iskandar's side could do with more from Muhaimin, when the Young Lions host tonight a Home United side featuring a fearsome attack side that boasts the services of national forwards Indra Sahdan Daud, Fazrul Nawaz and Qiu Li, in addition to 2013 Player of the Year Lee Kwan Woo and four-goal Japanese forward Bruno Castanheira.
Four years ago, Muhaimin and his mates from the National Football Academy thrilled Singapore fans when they played an exciting brand of attacking football en route to a bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Olympics held here.
Back then, the pin-up boys were goalkeeper Fashah "The Bear" Iskandar, inspirational skipper Jeffrey Lightfoot, "Gelek Prince" Hanafi Akbar, Muhaimin the "Chilli Padi" and wing wonders Brandon Koh and Jonathan Tan.
Today, the "Chilli Padi" has grown from 1.55m to 1.67m, and like a few of his teammates, is gaining invaluable experience with every match in the S.League.
Most of the players from the Youth Olympics side are playing for the Singapore Cubs in the Prime League, but a handful have had their first taste of S.League action (see sidebar), with Fashah, Muhaimin and 2010 TNP Dollah Kassim Award winner Ammirul Emmran Mazlan drafted into the Young Lions squad.
Defensive midfielder Ammirul, 19, was the first to get thrown in at the deep end when he started in the Young Lions' 4-0 loss to Balestier Khalsa on the opening day, with Muhaimin coming on as a 78th-minute substitute.
"The pace of the game is so much faster than in the Prime League, so it's really not easy," said Ammirul, a first-year ITE College West student who has featured seven times - five as a starter -out of the Young Lions' 10 games in the S.League.
"We are playing against bigger, stronger and more experienced opponents, and even just to get into the first 11, we are fighting for places with team-mates who have played at SEA Games level.
"But it's a friendly competition and I have learned a lot from midfielders like Shamil (Sharif) and Anumanthan (Mohan Kumar), who have guided me since I joined the team."
The Young Lions have been at the wrong end of a number of big losses, including a 6-1 hammering by leaders Brunei DPMM FC. But Aide's team have impressed with their fighting spirit, and have scored in eight of their 10 games. They played their best game when they blitzed Hougang United 3-0 last week.
Few will give them a chance against the Protectors even on their home ground at Jalan Besar Stadium. But Muhaimin, who made all seven appearances off the bench, is taking it in stride.
He said: "This is what we look forward to, playing against better opponents and improving ourselves.
"I believe we all want to play at next year's SEA Games on home ground. In order to get our place, we need to push beyond our limits and show we deserve to be in the team by being consistently good."
Where the YOG cubs are now
Courts Young Lions:
Goalkeeper Fashah Iskandar
Midfielder Ammirul Emmran Mazlan
Forward Muhaimin Suhaimi
Singapore Cubs (National Under-19s):
Defenders Jeffrey Lightfoot, Dhukhilan Jeevamani, Illyas Lee Midfielders Brandon Koh, Amirul Iskandar Forwards Hazim Faiz, Syazwan Zin
Forward Hanafi Akbar
Midfielder Jonathan Tan
SSV Ulm 1846 (Germany)
Midfielder Bryan Neubronner
Courts Young Lions v Home United
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Harimau Muda B v Woodlands Wellington
(Tonight, 8.45pm, Pasir Gudang Stadium)
Tampines Rovers v Warriors FC
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Clementi Stadium)
Albirex Niigata v Geylang International
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Hougang United v Balestier Khalsa
(Friday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Brunei DPMM v Tanjong Pagar
(Friday, 8.15pm, Hassanah Bolkiah Stadium)
Rodrigo Antonio Tosi (DPMM)
Roy O'Donovan (DPMM)
Geison Moura (Hougang)
Kazuki Sakamoto (Albirex)
Goran Ljubojevic (Balestier)
Miroslav Pejic (Warriors)
Nicholas Velez (Warriors)
This article was published on May 7 in The New Paper.
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