S'pore teen wants more after Portugal football stint
Just back from Algarve, Raiyan, 14, wants to continue his European adventure
He has been shoved, kicked, even knocked with the ball nowhere near him.
But Raiyan Firraz is not about to throw in the towel.
The 14-year-old winger spent five months with the Algarve CF Academy in Portugal before returning to Singapore last month, and Raiyan is looking to extend his education in Europe.
Algarve CF were started from scratch by Singapore company AbeoGlobal, and feature a senior side in the second-tier Algarve District League.
After five games, the team are sitting atop the 17-team standings.
"I want to play professional football in Europe, and I know I have to work hard in these next few years, because by the time I turn 17, I will know if I do have what it takes to make it there," Raiyan told The New Paper.
"My time in Algarve showed me just how much more I have to sacrifice.
"I had to stop playing games on my phone to do extra training, follow a strict diet and go to bed earlier - to be a footballer.
"And I know there's more I have to do."
Raiyan is a former student of the Singapore Sports School.
His father, Muhammad Mahdi, enrolled him in Algarve to test him in a harsher environment to accelerate his progress.
And a harsher environment was what he got.
Raiyan was the youngest trainee at the Algarve academy - and the first Singaporean youngster - and while his 1.78-metre height matched his teammates, he was still years behind in terms of physical development, with most players there aged 18 and above.
"The physical part was toughest. It was one attribute that I didn't have, but I learnt to make use of my body there," said Raiyan, who dreams of donning the national team jersey one day.
"Football is clearly not just about skill and intelligence but also about my physique.
"Despite the physical side, the football there is very technical, and I learnt a lot there."
Raiyan attended an international school while he was in Algarve, with his education and football dream fully funded by his 57-year-old father who is a prime mover driver.
He is also thankful for the backing of his father and uncle, Nirmal Singh, a former national hockey captain.
"Most of my family are not big on sports, but I'm grateful that I have such strong support from my dad and uncle," said Raiyan, who will turn his attention to Singapore football, if he falls short in Europe.
They are considering returning to Portugal next month or joining an academy in England but, wherever the destination, Raiyan's drive will be the same.
He said: "I know it's not going to be easy, but for everything they've done for me, the least I can do is give it all I got to reach my dream."