Stargazing

Liverpool fan Delwinder Singh (second from right) and his Young Lions teammates get a thrill meeting former Reds star Dirk Kuyt (third from right) during their training camp in Turkey in January 2014. Kuyt, who is now plying his trade with Turkish club Fenerbahce, was training on a pitch close to where the Young Lions were having their own session.

On land considered hallowed turf by some Liverpool fans, one Reds supporter got the thrill of a lifetime.

National defender Delwinder Singh and his Singapore Under-23 teammates, who are on a training camp at Antalya, Turkey, got the chance to meet Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles after a workout yesterday morning.

The former Liverpool duo, who are now plying their trade with Turkish club Fenerbahce, were training on a pitch close to where the Young Lions were having their own session.

Having the chance to meet Dutch international Kuyt and Portuguese star Meireles, in a country where his favourite team lifted the Champions League trophy in an unforgettable final in 2005, blew Singh's mind.

Speaking to The New Paper last night, he said: "A few of us were running like fanboys when their (Fenerbahce's) security allowed us to watch them train.

"Some players were working on free-kicks, some on penalties and another group were working on possession.

"It was inspiring just watching them in action... It makes you want to be better players and better professionals."

Midfielder Shamil Sharif added: "Most of us were in awe and just went like, 'Wah, so this is how a top European professional team train'.

"We watched for only about 15 minutes, but even then it was shiok.

"I mean, these are people you watch on TV, and to get the chance to see them training in front of you... You can only be star-struck." The U-23s, coached by Aide Iskandar, are staying at the Calista Luxury Resort.

The hotel is part of a huge "football resort" of sorts, which provides teams with everything they need during a training camp.

Just minutes away are 12 quality football pitches for the teams to use.

Apart from Singapore, the national youth teams of countries like Kuwait, Syria and Austria are also having training camps in Antalya. Clubs from countries whose leagues are still on their winter break, like German lower-league teams Saarbrucken and Karlsruhe, are also there.

The Young Lions play the first of four scheduled games this evening against Turkish top-tier team Antalyaspor, who also boast a former Liverpool player, striker Milan Baros.

Aide, who guided the U-23 team to a bronze medal at last month's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar, said: "This is the first time most of the boys have come to Europe, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform tomorrow.

"They've trained well for the past five days and, hopefully, we can compete in the cold against tough opponents.

"I want to see their mental strength and how they cope."

The former national skipper has only 14 outfield players to choose from for the match, as a number of his squad of 24 will join the team late, owing to National Service or school commitments.

Despite the selection headache, Aide says the trip will benefit the youngsters in the long run.

"Everything has been great, and any team will find the facilities here fantastic," said the coach, who is trying to arrange a fifth sparring match before the team return on Feb 12.

"Our young players still have a long way to go."

"For them to be able to witness and learn from the attitude of the pros, looking at how they behave on and off the pitch, can only be good."


Get The New Paper for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES