Boavista beckons again for Winchell and Ryan
Winchell and Ryan follow Mahathir's footsteps into the Brazilian league
Singaporean youth footballer Mahathir Azeman looks to have paved the way for fellow local hopefuls to join Boavista's youth ranks.
Mahathir made the No. 10 shirt his own during an 18-month stint with the Brazilian club in 2013 and 2014.
The 20-year-old midfielder is now with S.League side Home United and in his wake are two 16-year-olds who are blazing trails of their own.
Ryan Goh and Winchell Ng were in Brazil for a month-long training stint with Boavista late last year, and have been invited back by the club for another six months, to be groomed for their Under-17 side, like Mahathir in his second stint there.
The duo's second Boavista stint will start in November.
Boavista compete in Rio's top club competition, against the likes of Fluminense, Botafogo and Flamengo.
"He's got talent, and we don't want to waste it.
"Life is more meaningful that way than just going to school," said Winchell's mother Felicia Ng.
Winchell is eyeing a spot either at a polytechnic or junior college after his O levels later this year.
"He will have to miss school, but for an opportunity like this for a local boy, I have to let him go. It's just the initial period for wherever he goes to school (next year)," she added.
"We have no objections if he wants to be a footballer whether it's in the S.League or overseas, but he must have passion, discipline and commitment... and balancing club football, with school football, studies, and even tuition classes on the weekends, he has already shown that."
Winchell, a central defender, is the captain of St Patrick's School's B Division side, while midfielder Ryan skippers St Gabriel's Secondary School. Both are in Home United's youth ranks.
Obviously, no one in the boys' camp is getting carried away.
"I used to play football when I was young, but football is a short career, and I would prefer Ryan to also have paper qualifications," said his father Richard Goh.
"Even if he wants to carry on with football after he's done with national service, why not?
"He can take classes at night; and if he plays overseas, we'll make arrangements."
Fabio da Silva, a former S.League professional, has been instrumental in arranging for Mahathir, Ryan and Winchell to train at Boavista.
He is delighted that Ryan and Winchell are making strides.
"It's nice to see Singaporean boys go all the way there, adapt so well with the local players and even get a chance to go back to play," said the Brazilian.
Ryan and Winchell are looking forward to what will be an opportunity of a lifetime when they return to Rio.
Both still remember the moment they found out that Boavista wanted them back.
"I was elated, and was just smiling for no reason long after that," recalled Ryan, who revealed that it was not easy initially adapting to the Brazilian way.
"It was eye-opening to be there. The Brazilian youngsters were not only bigger, but also played with more intensity and intelligence than I expected."
Winchell paid tribute to Mahathir - who scored 10 goals for Boavista's U-17s in his time there.
"What he did definitely gave us confidence that if we work hard, we could possibly go back too," he said, and he is aiming for the stars.
"It's every footballer's dream to play for a big club, maybe in the English Premier League, and I'm no different - I know we have to work hard to get there, and we're both willing to do that."
It was eye-opening to be there. The Brazilian youngsters were not only bigger, but also played with more intensity and intelligence than I expected.
- Ryan Goh