Little Asis' big dream
12-year-old has adapted well to football in Holland
Standing at just 1.39m and weighing only 29kg, Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali is used to opponents being bigger than him.
It was no surprise when the 12-year-old Loyang Secondary School student, who is on a training tour in Holland with his Turf City Football Club (TCFC) teammates, admitted he needed some time to adapt to the size of his opponents in Europe.
"They're way bigger than me," Asis told The New Paper over the phone.
"I needed time to get used to their tackles, which are harder than what I'm used to in Singapore.
"I want to learn how to add more aggression in my game, like them, and adapt my game."
This is Asis' first trip to Europe, and he hopes it will help him achieve his dream of playing professionally there.
The New Paper had reported in April that Asis, who can play as an attacking midfielder or striker, had been invited to train at the academies of Dutch high-flyers Feyenoord (currently top in the Eredivisie) and Turkish giants Galatasaray, after the clubs watched videos of him in action.
But Luka Lalic, head coach of Asis' TCFC team, urged his parents to wait.
Lalic, a former Serbia Under-17 international, felt the youngster would be more comfortable expressing himself if he were surrounded by peers in a tour.
The youngster struggled in his first match against the youth team of FC Utrecht, but scored in the second game against FC Dordrecht.
TCFC won both matches 2-1.
"Asis has done well, but these kids here are much more physical than those he's played with at home," said Lalic. "In the first game, he struggled a bit, but against Dodrecht, he had got used to it and scored.
"I know there are a few agents here who have eyes on him."
Asis is enjoying himself in Holland, but said: "The weather is a challenge.
"The cold is one thing, but it gets even worse when there's wind."
The TCFC team faced Feyenoord (this morning, Singapore time), play SBV Excelsior today and Roda Kerkrade on Thursday, before returning to Singapore on Friday.
This will not be the team's only visit to Europe.
With help from his father Srdjan, a former player, coach and agent, Lalic will take his charges to Spain in March next year to play training matches against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and Espanyol.
While in Spain, the team are set to participate in the MeCup in Minorca, a tournament that includes youth teams from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal, among others.
I know there are a few agents here who have eyes on him.
— Turf City Football Club coach Luka Lalic on his player Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali