Joshua is 2015 winner of The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award
U-18 midfielder bounces back from injury setbacks to win TNP Dollah Kassim award
He looked longingly at The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award trophy, still in disbelief over his win.
Joshua Bernard Pereira has never won an individual award in football, so it was no surprise that the 18-year-old "blacked out" after he was named the winner of the prestigious youth award yesterday, given to the best local player aged 18 or below who has shown excellence on and off the pitch.
Joshua, a midfielder for the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-18 team, earned the nod over five other nominees - Justin Hui (NFA U-17), Elliot Ng and Saifullah Akbar (both NFA U-16) and Glenn Kweh and Benjamin Davis (both NFA U-15).
With the win, the 1.79m-tall youngster also earned a training stint with a reputable overseas club under the Singapore Pools Passport to Excellence.
The Dollah Kassim Award was given out in conjunction with the NFA graduation ceremony at Jurongville Secondary School in Jurong East yesterday morning.
The award was named after the late Dollah, who was widely regarded as one of Singapore's most skilful players. He died at the age of 61 in 2010.
Initiated by The New Paper in partnership with Singapore Pools and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in 2010 - the award recognises both footballing excellence and character, both of which Dollah had in abundance.
"I kept thinking about the Dollah Kassim Award during the NFA graduation ceremony," said Joshua.
"Everybody in my family has been talking about it the last two weeks and they really wanted me to win.
"On the stage, I didn't think it wasn't going to be me. The other nominees are really good players, so I told myself to forget about it.
"I remembered I was shaking on the stage and, when my name was announced, I just blacked out. I didn't remember a thing.
"Even after I got off stage, I was still like, 'Wow'."
What makes Joshua's rise even more remarkable is that he has had to bounce back from two horrific leg injuries.
He fractured his right fibula when he was 12 and then suffered a broken left ankle four years later, in 2013.
His father, Harry, glowed with pride at his son's achievement.
"I'm extremely proud. Joshua has been involved in this game since he was five," he said. "He's suffered two broken legs, but he persevered, and his passion was what pushed him through.
"The next step for him is to play for the Young Lions, or possibly even the LionsXII. I also understand he's been earmarked by the FAS for an extended stint in Europe, and I hope he gets to go.
"He'll have the family's support."
The Dollah Kassim Award is just reward for Joshua's stellar year.
Last month, he was one of the standout performers for the national Under-18 team during the qualification tournament in Thailand for next year's AFC Under-19 Championship.
The first-year hospitality and tourism management student at Temasek Polytechnic shone against the continent's best youth teams like South Korea and Thailand, and was rewarded with an invitation to train with the Courts Young Lions - the Under-23 developmental team that play in the professional S.League.
TNP editor Dominic Nathan said: "Joshua embodies what the Dollah Kassim Award is all about.
"He has suffered many setbacks in his young career, but refused to let them get him down.
"If he continues to show the same qualities that has helped him get to where he is today, I'm sure he will go far."
FAS president Zainudin Nordin added: "We are very proud of all six nominees. It's never easy to select just one winner, but the judges have done their work and I wish to congratulate Joshua on his win.
"My advice to him is to persevere, keep working hard and try to go as far as possible in his football career."
Previous winners of the award - Ammirul Emmran Mazlan (2010) and Adam Swandi (2011) - each spent two weeks with English Premier League side Newcastle United, while the winners in the last three years - R Aaravin (2012), Hazim Faiz Hassan (2013) and Muhelmy Suhaimi (2014) - polished their skills at French outfit FC Metz.
What others say
Like my late father-in-law, who had his fair share of injuries over the years, Joshua fought through adversity to get to where he is today.
Being a late bloomer, what Joshua has attained is highly commendable and we couldn't have asked for a more worthy winner.
- Navin Nambiar, former Jurong FC footballer and the son-in-law of the late Dollah Kassim, on Joshua
The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award is a great platform for us to show our support for young football talents.
The nominees get public recognition and support through TNP's coverage while Singapore Pools funds the overseas training stint for the winner.
We hope this year's winner, Joshua, will take full advantage of the opportunities and realise his dreams.
- Janet Seow, director of corporate services and corporate communications, Singapore Pools