National futsal team beckons for champions' Darrin
When Darrin Daniel, 18, started playing football with his friends in secondary school, he never thought of carving a professional career out of it.
A failed club trial two years ago cemented his decision to focus on his studies and just play the sport for fun.
But, during Saturday's qualifying round of the Berita Harian National Futsal Championship, the ITE College Central student got an unexpected call from a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) official.
"His first words were 'So which club do you play for?' and I told him that I didn't belong to any," he told The New Paper yesterday after the final, which his team Magnum 1 won in the Under-18 category.
"He was surprised and then offered me a place in the national futsal squad."
The team will be representing Singapore at October's AFF Futsal Championship in Indonesia, the first time Singapore are taking part after a 13-year absence.
Darrin said the invitation, while a surprise, also put him in a dilemma.
He did not want to let national-team commitments affect his studies, but decided to take up the offer after seeking advice from his coach Ariff Ghazali.
"He told me that it would be a great learning experience for me and I shouldn't give up this opportunity."
Darrin added that he had not told his parents the good news yet, as he wanted to keep a low profile.
Magnum 1 edged out tournament top-scorers Nek Chullos 1-0 in the final.
"We are just a bunch of childhood friends who play football for fun on weekdays and have never joined a competition as a team before," said Magnum 1 captain Farhan Samuri, 18.
"We aimed to qualify for the final only on Sunday, so this is a huge achievement for us."
Five other teams were crowned champions in their respective categories, after a gruelling two-day event that saw more than 950 matches played by 265 teams.
A team of ex-Lions including Fandi Ahmad and Lim Tong Hai also showed up yesterday for a charity match with under-privileged children from the Singapore Muslim Women's Association.
Lim, 46, praised the tournament for promoting a healthy lifestyle among children.
"The friendships and teamwork through interacting with one another on the pitch are things that the kids can't get just by sitting in front of the computer at home," he said.
When asked about the Young Lions' hunt for the elusive South-east Asia Games gold medal, Lim, who played in the 1993 semi-final against Myanmar, said that they stood an equal chance as the other countries.
"The team are in good hands under Aide (Iskandar)," he said.
"They must work together as a team and should also draw inspiration from the LionsXII, and hopefully we can get some good results."