Singapore Football

Football in his blood

Irfan the latest in his family to dream of becoming pro player

His father played alongside former Singapore captain Indra Sahdan Daud at youth level, his uncle is national skipper Shahril Ishak, while he also has cousins in Home United's Prime League ranks.

Irfan Najeeb, 17, is the latest from his family dreaming of a career as a professional footballer.

The National Football Academy U-17 centre back is one of six youngsters nominated for this year's Dollah Kassim Award, and is described by coach Christophe Chaintreuil as one who "listens to advice, gives his best every day with good mentality and is determined to succeed".

Given his footballing heritage, it is perhaps no surprise he has chosen this path.

"I started playing when I was about seven," he told The New Paper.

"My father bought me a ball and I just started to love it. Every time he watched a game on TV, I would just sit there and watch as well. That's where I developed my passion."

His father, Najeeb Magnus, recalls how Irfan was never seen without a ball at his feet, even insisting on bringing it with him whenever they went out.

Funnily enough, considering his son is now playing for the NFA 
U-17s, Najeeb revealed he was not overly impressed with Irfan's talent in the early days.

In fact, Irfan was rejected by Home United at Under-14 level before being given his chance at Gombak United.

With a chuckle, and Irfan looking on sheepishly, Najeeb said: "Actually, when I first saw him play, I was quite disappointed. But since he has the passion, I want to push him and support him all the way.

"Of course now I'm proud of what he has achieved and his younger siblings really look up to him.

"I stopped playing at a young age because I got distracted, and I want him to achieve more and not make the same mistakes I did."

SUPPORT

Although Irfan has his father's full backing to pursue a football career, he is required to give equal attention to his studies; Najeeb ferries him around, even after a long day at work to lighten the burden.

On juggling studies and training, Irfan said: "It is a challenge but I just have to sacrifice time with my friends.

"When they're out, I'll be studying at home and, even on weekends when we're spending family time, sometimes I'll be doing homework as well."

What is the one piece of advice Najeeb has for his son?

"I always tell him you can never lose your temper. Once you lose it, you're finished," said Najeeb, who last played for Tiong Bahru United in the Prime League before calling time on his football career.

"Whatever happens on the field should remain on the field.

"You should never be disappointed or angry, regardless of the scoreline and must continue to give your 100 per cent."


The TNP Dollah Kassim Award is back for a sixth year and six promising footballers from the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) National Football Academy will vie for the prestigious gong. The award — which is handed to the most worthy player aged 18 and below — recognises both footballing excellence and character, both of which the late Dollah, nicknamed “The Gelek King”, had in abundance. This year’s nominees are Nur Adam Abdullah (NFA Under-15), Qayyum Raisyhan (NFA U-16), Irfan Najeeb, Danial Syafiq (both NFA U-17), Justin Hui and Ruysaidi Salime (both NFA U-18). A panel of judges from the FAS and TNP will assess the nominees and the winner will be announced at a ceremony on Saturday. In addition to a trophy, the winner of the award will also secure an overseas stint at a European club.

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