Metz training 'intense', but Singapore trio impress French club
A different level altogether - that was how Muhelmy Suhaimi described his 10-day sojourn at French Ligue 1 side FC Metz.
The 19-year-old had earned the opportunity to train with the club as part of the Singapore Pools Passport to Excellence, after he won the The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award last December.
After a stringent selection process, two other footballers - 15-year-old Benjamin James Davis and 17-year-old Hami Syahin - joined Muhelmy for the training stint in north-eastern France on March 12, and returned to Singapore 10 days later.
Speaking to The New Paper before his training session with Tampines Rovers' Prime League team yesterday, midfielder Muhelmy described an intensity like nothing he had experienced before.
"It was crazy there. The training was so many levels above what I'd been used to," he said.
"We trained for 90 minutes in the afternoon, six days a week, Monday to Saturday, and hit the gym on Sunday. It was intense.
"It was so vigorous that I had cramps all the time.
"That hardly happens back home."
It is not surprising because Metz's highly acclaimed youth academy has produced stars past and present, including Robert Pires, Louis Saha, Emmanuel Adebayor and Diafra Sakho.
"The coaches were very detailed. Each training session was specific, so one day we'd concentrate solely on possession, and the next day we'd focus on shooting," said Benjamin.
"It was very fast-paced, and we very quickly realised our mind had to be much quicker than the feet in order to keep up."
While Muhelmy is in the Tampines Prime League team, Hami, from Singapore Polytechnic, plays for the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-17 side.
Singapore Sports School's Benjamin turns out for the NFA U-15s.
The Singaporean trio, who all dream of turning professional, weren't just restricted to training sessions.
They were involved in two friendly matches for Metz, against RC Strasbourg on their second day there, and FC Sarrebourg, a day before they were scheduled to return home.
Both matches ended in 2-1 wins for Metz.
The three Singaporean youngsters came on in the second half for the first game, and played the full 90 minutes against Sarrebourg, impressing the local coaches, according to former Singapore international Robin Chitrakar.
NFA U-17 coach Chitrakar, who accompanied the boys on the trip, said: "It was a pleasant surprise to see how well they did.
"They weren't afraid, especially Muhelmy, and had the tenacity to compete.
"Even the coaches at Metz were impressed over the 10 days.
"They stopped short of pinpointing which player they thought impressed them most, but they did say that all three boys had talent.
"As a coach, that's definitely something you'd like to hear."