Football teacher-coach Zareen instils confidence at Loyang Primary
Loyang's football teacher-coach has an eye for talent and believes in instilling confidence in his charges
He has groomed notable footballers such as Ismail Yunos, Nurullah Hussein and Mahathir Azeman.
Loyang Primary School teacher Zareen Shariff also converted LionsXII and national player Faris Ramli into a footballer, after noticing him in the school's running team.
"I knew that he could run and he's very skilful, so I put him into the football team, and the rest is history," said Zareen, who has been teaching and coaching the school's football team for 16 years.
But, for a coach who's had success polishing raw gems, winning is not everything for the 41-year-old.
He plays younger boys against older opponents even if it means reducing their chances of winning, simply to give them the experience.
"To me, it's about the exposure. If you play with bigger boys, you get better. So later when you play with students your age, you will have an edge," said Zareen, who has been nominated for The New Paper's S Soocelaraj Award, which honours the best teacher-coaches in Singapore.
It helps that he keeps in touch with his ex-students such as Faris, as they go back to school and play friendly games with his youngsters.
Zareen makes it his priority to give his young pupils confidence through training and preparation.
"An important value is self-worth. We want our students to be confident about themselves, to feel good. I must be fair to my pupils, I make sure they go to tournaments well prepared," he said.
That is why he recruits Primary 1 and 2 boys, to give the future school players exposure early.
Zareen also holds optional pre-season trainings during the holidays, which are well attended because of the support from many of the parents.
IN GOOD HANDS
"I'm lucky because of the understanding I have with the parents. I am in touch with them, and they know that the children are in good hands," said the school's subject head of Malay language.
Under Zareen's guidance, the school won their first Schools National title in 2005, and again in 2006. Since then, the Loyang team have remained a fixture in the East Zone semi-finals and finals.
This year, the junior team finished runners-up to Tanjong Katong Primary School in the National finals.
Zareen's rapport with his students and their parents extends beyond just school and football.
Earlier this year, he pooled some $200 from fellow teachers for one of his Primary 5 footballers to play in the Gothia Cup in Sweden, and also sent the student off at the airport.
"It's not about the money. If our students can represent Singapore, we will provide whatever support we can," he said.
Iskandar Zainalludin, the subject head of PE and CCA, said of Zareen: "The boys under his charge are well disciplined and have resilience. All of them have good attitude which athletes should possess."
"As Zareen is a subject head, he doesn't have to take a CCA. But he is stubbornly committed to the sport and to the boys."
Zareen insists that while he is handling both roles well, he will not give up coaching.
"As long as I am still healthy and I can do the job, let me do it," he said.
"I don't see it as a burden, it is something that I like. Because when I see my boys, whatever stress that I have is gone."