Thaslim hopes to make mark at StanChart Marathon
He honed his football skills on the grey floors of void decks, imagining himself playing on the lush green pitches in cavernous football stadiums around the world.
Football was Abdul Thaslim's calling until he was introduced to athletics after enrolling in the SportCares programme, which uses sport to improve the lives of underprivileged children, youth-at-risk, needy seniors, people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities and the disadvantaged in the country.
After spending a year in the SportCares programme, Thaslim realised that his dream of sporting glory perhaps lie on a different stage - athletics and the red polyurethane track.
MAKE HIS MARK
The 16-year-old Queensway Secondary School student is hoping to make his mark when he competes in the men's 10km race at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore this Sunday.
"It's clear that he's got natural talent. He's got leg speed and the character of a fighter - when he goes, he really goes," said his coach G Elangovan, a former national distance runner.
While Thaslim is torn between football and running, a good performance at the marathon could perhaps convince him that his future lies in running.
"I'm not sure about quitting football to focus on running, because I love football," Thaslim told The New Paper.
"But, if I do get a great time in the 10km, it will make a difference and I will be a little more convinced to fully commit myself to running."
Elangovan had held several national records, blazing trails in the 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m and, for a period in the 1990s, was Singapore's top male runner at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.
The 39-year-old coach said: "I do see a bit of myself in him, in terms of fighting spirit and fast legs.
DARE TO DREAM
"I dared to dream of competing at the South-east Asia Games and even at world level, and I told him that he should aim that far."
The signs are good.
Thaslim has already won the 800m in the Under-17 category at the Akira Swift 61st Track and Field Championships this year and Elangovan believes he is witnessing the start of something special.
He said: "With more guided training, Thaslim can make it at the national level. At the moment, he's trying his best juggling running and football, but he usually comes to training tired.
"I've asked him to choose athletics."
Thaslim admitted to being tired ahead of training sessions with his coach, with the latter working him to the bone, but there is some joy in the pain.
He said: "Obviously, training with him is very tiring.
"I have to do intervals, sprints and longer runs - mostly intervals - but, no matter how tired I get after the sessions, I just tell myself that this benefits me, and it will make me stronger."