NFA teens experience pro life in Japan
NFA youngsters get a taste of the big time in Japan
Camera flashes went off, they fielded a flurry of questions, handshakes were exchanged and personalised jerseys were presented, before the group trotted out for their first training session at a pitch-perfect training ground.
Yesterday afternoon, six young Singaporean hopefuls were made to feel like they were new J.League signings when they were unveiled at a press conference at the Karigane Football Centre, with the magnificent Hida Mountains, or Northern Alps, serving as a picturesque backdrop.
The National Football Academy Under-15s' Christian Chiang Moroni, Ashley Yong, Nur Adam Abdullah and Elijah Lim and the Under-14s' Vasileios Chua and Marc Tan will be spending a week with J2 League club Matsumoto Yamaga as part of a collaboration between Epson Singapore and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Besides taking part in the club's youth training programme and playing in friendly matches, the six will also stay in the Matsumoto Yamaga dorm and attend their league match against Montedio Yamagata on Sunday.
Vasileios, a 14-year-old striker from Tanjong Katong Secondary School, told The New Paper: "My ambition is to play for a top club overseas and this has spurred me on to working harder to achieve my dreams.
"I'm really looking forward to learning new things in training here this week."
For Adam and Elijah, this is their second visit to Matsumoto and the Singapore Sports School duo have fond memories of their time here last year.
Elijah, a 15-year-old central midfielder, said: "We saw up close how dedicated the Japanese boys were during training.
"They didn't need coaches to push them to get things done.
"They also mingled with us and made us feel part of the team."
Matumoto Yamaga youth academy director Takeshi Yamazaki has a high regard for Singaporeans.
Said the 50-year-old: "We had three boys - Adam, Elijah and Hamizan Hisham - with us last year and I was impressed by their passion for football.
"They were serious, they had a positive attitude to learn about the Japanese culture and way of football and we are looking forward for more of the same from this year's batch.
"In March, we were able to join the J.League exchange programme and send some of our coaches to Singapore. So this would be our third interaction with the Football Association of Singapore.
"We hope the boys will have more intensive training than they did last year. They will play practice matches, have an individual training session with our Under-18s coach, watch the first team train and meet with our first-team manager Yasuharu Sorimachi.
"I would like this programme to be the start of further good relations between the FAS and Matsumoto Yamaga and good sporting relations between Japan and Singapore."
*David Lee's trip is courtesy of Epson Singapore, official partner of the Football Association of Singapore and the official office equipment partner of FAS.