S'porean journeyman keeps the faith

LONDON - The name Karan Singh Banga is unlikely to ring a bell even with the most ardent fan of Singapore football. Unsuccessful with trials at no less than four S-League clubs, the closest the 22-year-old came to playing professional football was when Hougang United reportedly offered him a deal to play for their youth team.

Yet, Karan is among only a handful of Singapore footballers to have earned himself a trial at an English club, with Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

But where the likes of Noh Alam Shah failed, with Notts County in 2005, Karan is hoping to score himself a contract.

"It's good to be part of the academy system in England where I can get noticed," the winger told The Sunday Times at QPR's academy in west London. "The standard is so high here but I've learnt so much.

"I don't have an amazing background and I'm lucky to be here. I am focused and am determined to break into the first team."

The journey from Singapore to QPR's Loftus Road, via New York, has been an unorthodox one.

Born in the Lion City 22 years ago, he moved to Queens in New York at the age of 13, where his father ran an Indian vegetarian restaurant. He returned to serve national service as a navy storeman in 2009. During that time, he attended trials with Tampines Rovers, Hougang United, Courts Young Lions and Tanjong Pagar United, albeit without success.

Various local coaches who assessed Karan said the left-sided winger is pacy but lacks the skills and fitness to play professionally.

Last December, Karan played in a trial match for the New York Cosmos. He said he was approached by a QPR scout after the game.

That led to him arriving for trials in London two weeks ago.

QPR academy's head of education and welfare David Baker has praise for the Singaporean's work ethic but is non-committal to Karan's chances of earning a contract.

"Karan's been working incredibly hard. His aim is to improve himself and getting himself ready to be in contention for professional football," he said. "He is aware of his targets and he has to continue working hard and remain enthusiastic."

It will be difficult for Singh to get a United Kingdom work permit as a footballer needs to play in 75 per cent of his country's competitive international games and his nation needs to be ranked in the top 70 by Fifa (Singapore is ranked 149th).

Even with the odds stacked against him, Karan, who paid for his own airfare and accommodation for this stint, is undeterred. "My family is very supportive of my decision to come to QPR for trials," he intoned.

"My parents told me to believe in myself and never give up. Even if I can't play for QPR, maybe I can try out for a lower division club. "I still have my Singapore passport and my dream is to play for the national team."

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