Blood, sweat & goals
Busted lip fails to keep Crest Secondary's Nor Hakim down
Two weeks ago, Crest Secondary School's football team fell at the final hurdle, losing 2-0 to perennial favourites Hong Kah Secondary in the Schools National C Division final.
But the result took nothing away from the two-year-old specialised Normal Technical school in Jurong East, who surpassed everyone's expectations with their stunning run.
It was their first year in the schools' football tournament, and they did not feature a single player from the national youth teams or an S.League club's Centre of Excellence side.
Crest striker Nor Hakim Redzwan encapsulated his school's never-say-die attitude and fierce desire to prove the naysayers wrong.
The 14-year-old stands at just 1.61m and weighs 42kg. Hakim's small frame didn't stop him from banging in 21 goals in 18 games for his school.
His size meant he was on the receiving end of some tough challenges from defenders, but it never fazed him.
Hakim recalled one particular incident, when he met up with The New Paper recently.
"In our final first-round game of the nationals, I tore my lip," he said.
"There was a high ball and I had my eyes on it as I went for it, but then I felt an elbow in my face."
Mohd Shah Razak, Crest Secondary's head of physical education and CCA, said: "There was a lot of blood, but he didn't show any pain.
"In fact, he wanted to get back on the field and continue.
"But I could see there was a bit of flesh dangling from his lip, so I told him there was no way he could play."
Hakim was raced to hospital in an ambulance and required five stitches - including one inside his mouth.
The injury set him back two weeks, but the youngster - who did not represent his primary school in football, preferring sepak takraw instead - was raring to go by the time of the second round.
The striker picked up where he left off, banging in crucial goals, including the winner in the national semi-final against Queensway Secondary.
Alas, Hakim and his teammates couldn't pull off one final victory against Hong Kah, although they were far from disappointed.
Said Hakim: "We didn't expect to go so far and our original target was to just get into the second round of the West Zone tournament. But we showed great teamwork."
While the Crest team's work ethic and togetherness were key to their run to the final, Shah and Crest assistant coach Mohd Azahari singled out their top scorer for praise.
Azahari, who assists former Tanjong Pagar United coach Tohari Paijan as Crest's coach, said: "Hakim is a role model on and off the pitch.
"Sometimes strikers and top scorers can be prima donnas, but he's the most well-behaved in our team.
"He's a good player with a good attitude, and I hope he keeps working hard."