European clubs Feyenoord and Galatasaray interested in Asis, 12

Local schoolboy Asis, 12, invited to train with Feyenoord and Galatasaray

Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali (right).
IMPRESSIVE: Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali (right) strutting his stuff during a training session wih Turf City FC.
ATTENTIVE: Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali (second from right) listening intently to his coach Luka Lalic during a training session with Turf City FC, who compete in the local JSSL Super League.

His father never taught him how to kick a football.

He does not play for any national youth team.

But those who have seen him play will tell you Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali has bags of talent and, if groomed the right way, the 12-year-old, who can play as an attacking midfielder or upfront, has the potential to play professionally in Europe one day.

The New Paper understands that two European clubs - Holland's Feyenoord and Turkish side Galatasaray - have been so impressed with the Loyang Primary School pupil after watching videos of him that they invited him to train with their academies last month.

As Asis is underaged and not from the European Union, and there is also no pre-contract or agreement signed, both clubs declined to comment on their interest in the boy.

But Luka Lalic, Asis' coach at the Turf City Football Club (TCFC) team that compete in the local JSSL Super League, has advised the boy and his parents to bide their time.

TRIAL MATCHES

After all, Lalic, a former Serbia Under-17 international who was forced to hang up his boots at the age of 18 because of heart issues, will be taking Asis and his TCFC teammates for a series of trial matches against top European clubs.

"At his age, he might feel overawed if he is the only one going all the way to Europe for a trial," said the 28-year-old, who first spotted Asis four years ago.

"This is why it is better for him to go with his other teammates in October and March, so that he can be himself on the pitch and play his normal game.

"His talent speaks for itself. When you see him with the ball, you can see what he has is not taught... It's God-given.

"Sometimes, the things he does in training almost defy physics."

Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali (right) strutting his stuff during a training session wih Turf City FC. TNP PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

After the Primary School Leaving Examination in September, Lalic will take his TCFC team, comprising up to 18 boys, on two European stints.

In October, they will play the youth teams of Dutch clubs such as Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, ADO Den Haag and Sparta Rotterdam.

And in March next year, the TCFC side will take on youth teams from Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and Espanyol in Spain.

While in Spain, the team will also participate in the MeCup in Minorca, a tournament that includes the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, among others.

Lalic arranged the trips in Holland and Spain last month with the help of his father Srdjan, who is a former player, coach and football agent.

Srdjan's dealings as an agent helped him amass a list of contacts comprising academy directors, scouts and fellow agents across Europe.

CONTACTS

Among them are Murat Basaran, who counts Samuel Eto'o and Rafael van der Vaart among his clients and Milan Martinovic, who represents Real Madrid star Luka Modric and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.

"In European football, nobody talks to you if you don't know them," said Srdjan, 63, bluntly.

"Even then, my contacts in Europe were not convinced at first.

"They asked me, 'Singapore? Are you sure there's talent there?'."

But, having been in town for about three weeks to help his son arrange the team's European sojourn, he is convinced there is enough talent in Singapore.

Earlier this year, Srdjan tapped on his contacts to help a Singapore-based Japanese expatriate's son to join Sparta Prague, the most successful club side in the Czech Republic.

There are other eye-catching young talents in the TCFC team as well.

Winger Levi Skyum, son of a Danish father and American mother, is a goal machine.

Striker Jacob Pasterfield, son of a British father and Kiwi mother, and half-Italian, half-Spanish midfielder Andreas Canos are also ones to watch.

But tiny Asis, the only local boy in the team, who stands at just 1.39m and weighs 29kg, stands out.

Said Srdjan: "I have seen many young players in Europe over the years, and I am convinced it is a matter of when, and not if, a top European team sign Asis.
"I sent videos of him to some agents and they replied, 'Who is this boy? From Singapore? Cannot be'."

UNDER THE RADAR

Despite starring for TCFC in the JSSL league almost every weekend, and for Loyang Primary School as their captain, Asis has never been approached by anyone from the Football Association of Singapore to join its Junior Centre of Excellence teams.

However, TNP understands that he has been invited for trials at the Singapore Sports School.

National team winger Faris Ramli, a Loyang Primary School alumnus, was hugely impressed after watching Asis in action in last year's National Schools final.

"He's so tiny, so I didn't really expect anything from him," recalled Faris, who was invited to hand out individual awards after the match 
last October.

"But, when he has the ball at his feet, you could see there's something special about him.

"He was so comfortable with the ball, has a great touch and vision, too. He controlled the game."

Asis' father Junaidi Karim says he has no idea where his son got his ability from.

"In terms of whether it is hereditary, I'd say definitely not," said the 48-year-old technician with a chuckle.

"I played football only during my school days and, even then, I never taught him anything about the game.

"I'm very grateful to God for giving him this talent."

Asis is looking forward to the European trips with his TCFC teammates.

"My dream is to play professional football in Europe," he said with a toothy grin. "I hope to gain experience and improve as much as I can when we are there."

I’ve been in Singapore since 1999 and Asis is the best young player I’ve seen here.

— Darren Stewart, former Australian international defender and S.League coach, who now runs the Little League Soccer academy

His talent speaks for itself. When you see him with the ball, you can see what he has is not taught... It’s God-given.

— Luka Lalic, Asis’ coach at the Turf City Football Club team

He’s so tiny... but, when he has the ball at his feet, you could see there’s something special about him.

— National winger Faris Ramli, who watched Asis at last year’s National Schools final

Hurdles that Asis has to overcome

If Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali dreams of plying his trade in Europe one day, he must overcome some obstacles.

For one, there is the question of relocating.

Under Fifa rules, players below the age of 18 can sign for a foreign club only if at least one parent moves to the country in which the new club are located, for reasons not linked to football.

Serb Srdjan Lalic, a former player, coach and agent, says this is a hurdle that can be overcome, but it is easier said than done for Asis' father Junaidi Karim.

Besides 12-year-old Asis, the 48-year-old technician has two other children - both daughters, aged 18 and 21 - to look after.

Junaidi said that the prospect of having to uproot to help his son chase his football dreams is at the back of his mind, but added he did not want to put the cart before the horse.

"When Asis first started playing football, I never thought he might play in Europe one day or anything like that," said Junaidi.

UPROOT

"But, after he follows his Turf City Football Club team to Europe in October and March, if a club really want to take him in, I will have a look at what the arrangement is and maybe I will have to move there with him.

"Then I will leave my daughters with my wife here.

"It's not easy, but I know this kind of opportunity does not always come knocking."

There is also the question of National Service.

Srdjan is aware of the obstacle, but is hopeful Asis will prove over time that he is talented enough to be granted deferment, as in the cases of swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen.

But the issue of NS deferment is trickier with football, which is a team sport, than swimming.

When contacted, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin told The New Paper: "I would not speculate at this time because the context and situation many years down the road could be very different." - SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ

Tags: NS and prodigy

WORKOUTS BY HORSES ENTERED FOR SUNDAY

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Maid jailed 12 weeks for abusing 14-month-old boy

Maid jailed 12 weeks for abusing 14-month-old boy

She ill-treated her employers’ baby son a whopping 15 times in their Punggol flat between December last year and this February.

Indonesian maid Tursinah Sari, now 32, repeatedly abused the defenceless boy, who was only between 14 and 16 months old at that time, just because she could not get him to fall asleep.

She was jailed for 12 weeks yesterday after pleading guilty to six counts of ill-treating him.

Nine other similar charges involving him were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Among the acts of abuse, she dropped him onto a sofa before pressing onto his ribs with both her hands on Jan 27.

Five days later, she forcefully pulled him out of his cot by grabbing his legs before spinning his body around to face her while he was dangling upside-down.

Get the full story in our print edition April 20.

Subscribe to The New Paper in print and digital at www.tinyurl.com/getTNP

Tags: crime, court, abuse and baby

TIMELINE OF ABUSE

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After hitting taxi, man almost hits elderly taxi driver

Man jailed a week and fined for rash act and inconsiderate driving

The BMW driver was so determined not to get caught, he almost hit an elderly taxi driver standing in front of his car as he drove off.

The cabby was so determined to bring him to justice he tailed the driver home.

There, the police were called and the driver was arrested.

At around 1.15am on June 21, 2014, cabby Reveendran Vijayan, 62, was driving along Lavender Street towards Balestier Road with a passenger in his back seat.

A BMW, driven by Billy Quek Keng Siang, now 45, collided into the rear of his taxi.

Both drivers stopped their vehicles by the side of the road.

Mr Reveendran stepped out of his taxi and while talking to Quek, found he reeked of alcohol.

Quek quickly walked back to his car when asked if he had been drink-driving.

Mr Reveendran stood in front of the BMW and put his hands up to prevent Quek from driving away.

Quek ignored him and drove forward.

The cabby, who was standing about half a car length away, jumped onto the bonnet of the BMW and went to the left to avoid being hit.

CHASE

With his passenger still in the back seat, Mr Reveendran returned to his taxi and chased Quek from Lavender Street, to Balestier Road. They then reached a multi-storey carpark at Block 115, Whampoa Road.

Mr Reveendran called the cops after spotting the BMW on the third storey. Officers arrested Quek at his home about two hours later.

Quek, who is self-employed, was yesterday jailed for a week and fined $1,000 after pleading guilty to one count each of performing a rash act and inconsiderate driving.

A third charge of failing to render assistance following the accident was taken into consideration during sentencing.

He is out on a bail of $15,000 and will begin his sentence on Monday as he had to settle personal matters.

In mitigation, his lawyer, Mr Choo Si Sen, told District Judge Crystal Ong that no one was injured in the incident and stressed that both vehicles suffered minor damage.

Mr Choo said it happened due to a momentary lapse of attention.

For performing the rash act, Quek could have been jailed up to six months and fined up to $2,500.

For inconsiderate driving, he could have been jailed up to six months and fined up to $1,000.

MSN look 'dead'

Capello says Messi, Suarez and Neymar are paying the price for playing too many matches

MSN DOWN: Barcelona's front trio of (from far left) Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi looking lost in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Valencia.
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Japan lets quake victims shelter in prison

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Lee eyes a second stint as SSA head

SSA chief wants another stint to continue improving aquatics scene

Lee Kok Choy.

Two years ago, former national swimmer Lee Kok Choy took the plunge and became the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) president by a whisker in its elections.

Since then, the 64-year-old and his team have been pulling hard with each stroke towards making Singapore a world-class aquatics nation by 2020, with several milestones across four disciplines - swimming, water polo, synchronised swimming and diving.

The SSA also oversees open-water swimming in Singapore.

Now, Lee is ready to swim his second lap as the leader of Singapore's aquatics fraternity.

Yesterday, at the Sports Hub Library, the former SSA secretary general and vice-president (diving) announced his intention to run again for the presidency.

"We have a vision for the future and we see a lot of progress (in the past two years)," said the country manager of Micron Semiconductor Asia.

"But what we have done is just the basics... and we need more time to continue that work.

"With that in mind, I intend to stand for re-election as the president of the Singapore Swimming Association."

He added that he is still forming his team for the next two years, but expects "one or two changes", given that an exco member may serve a maximum of eight years, or four two-year terms, under SSA's constitution.

That would mean that treasurer Sylvia Peh and Ang Peng Wee, assistant secretary general for swimming, would have to step down at the elections during the annual general meeting, which must be held by June.

Two years ago, Lee garnered 17 votes to Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua's 16 in a hotly contested election for the top post.

Contacted by The New Paper, Phua would only confirm that she would not be contesting this year's elections.

However, TNP understands that there may be challenges for at least the vice-president (water polo) and assistant secretary-general (water polo) posts.

Yesterday, Lee said: "We want to do our best to continue contributing. At this time, we would not want to say whether we have a battle or not.

"No one else has announced anything, but we would be prepared for any contest... and we definitely want to put our best foot forward."

Lee pointed out that the four disciplines have made significant strides in the past two years.

For instance, 1,150 swimmers took part in this year's SSA time trials - which has no qualifying criteria - compared to 770 two years ago.

Also, the likes of Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen are making waves on the world stage, with an Olympic medal in Rio a distinct possibility.

The men's water polo team are inching their way up the Asian stage, while the synchronised swimming team have the potential to win a medal on the continental stage, Lee added.

But he acknowledged that there's "some work to do" in diving, which was re-introduced just before the 2010 Youth Olympics.

Lee's two-year term has been marked by two major events, last year's South-east Asia Games and the World Junior Championships, which took up a lot of time and resources to organise.

If elected, Lee said his team will work on strengthening infrastructure and knowledge at the grassroots level in the next two years.

He said: "The work is still in its very early stages, we want to build the whole pathway from the learn-to-play level, all the way to the top."

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