Dollah Kassim Award: Joel Chew learns to play smarter against bigger opponents
NFA U-17 midfielder learns to be smarter against bigger opponents
National Under-17 midfielder Joel Chew may stand at just 1.68m and weigh 50kg, and is often one of the smallest players in his team.
But his small stature has never been a problem in football. Instead, it has made him play smarter.
Indeed, against older and stronger opponents in this season's Prime League, an U-21 competition, Joel has caught the eye in the heart of midfield for the National Football Academy (NFA) U-17s.
So much so that his coach, Takuya Inoue, nominated him for this year's The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award.
Said the Japanese coach: "Joel has excellent ball skills and tactical understanding, and he is a good decision-maker in (pressure) situations. He may be small in size, but he has good endurance and agility."
Joel, 17, who models his game after Real Madrid's Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, said: "My size has forced me to play smarter, and I bring creativity and composure to the team when I circulate the ball.
"The Prime League is a physical league and playing smarter helps me deal with bigger, better and stronger opponents.
"I do not come into contact with them much because I work on my quick releases and one-touch passing to stay out of harm's way.
"But I am also working on building muscle to deal with the physicality of the league."
I work on my quick releases and one-touch passing to stay out of harm's way. NFA U-17 midfielder Joel Chew, on how he copes against bigger opponents
To be sure, it has not been all smooth sailing for the Republic Polytechnic student, as he chases his football dream.
Two years ago, he suffered a fractured right collarbone after landing awkwardly while playing for the NFA U-15 team. He was out for eight weeks.
He said: "It was a tough time because all I could do was not to aggravate the injury and let the bone heal, so I just focused on getting better."
But, backed by his parents, teammates and coaches, Joel recovered in time for major tournaments that year - the Asean Football Federation U-16 Championship, Asian Football Confederation U-16 championship qualifiers and the Lion City Cup.
He said: "Having been out for a long time drove me to work doubly hard to get my match fitness back in time for the competitions."
Joel admitted he was surprised at being nominated for this year's TNP Dollah Kassim award. "I am really honoured and happy to have my hard work noticed," he said.
"I thought that my best chances at a nomination would be when I was 15 and 16, so when I was told about the nomination, I did not really expect it.
"It has really spurred me on to improve further every day."
- Name: Joel Chew Joon Herng
- Team: NFA U-17
- Position: Central midfielder
- Date of birth: Feb 9, 2000
- Height: 1.68m
- Weight: 50kg
- Favourite team: Manchester United
- Favourite player: Luka Modric