Local boys can learn from Xavier's Finnish mindset: Philippe Aw
National U-15 coach praises teenager, who plays for youth team of Finland club Inter Turku
When Singapore take part in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-15 Championship later this week, they will find a fillip from Finland - in the form of defender Xavier Wong.
And it is one that coach Philippe Aw believes will give his young squad a mental edge.
Xavier, 15, moved to Finland nine years ago and now plays for the youth team of top-flight side Inter Turku, whose senior team won last year's Finnish Cup and qualified for this season's Europa League qualifying rounds.
Speaking to The New Paper at the U-15s' training session at Assumption English School, Aw said: "Xavier is more Finnish than he is Singaporean, in terms of his mindset.
"He comes to training and gives 100 per cent in every single session.
"For many years, I've said that the Albirex (Niigata) team in the local league have set the standard, in terms of hunger and discipline.
"And in my team, I have this boy from Finland, and I think the attitude, the mindset that he brings into training and games is something that our local boys have got to learn from."
After moving to the Nordic nation with his family when he was six, Xavier first joined a local city team in Lauste, a suburb in Turku, Finland.
Three years ago, he was spotted by one of Inter's coaches and was invited to join their youth set-up.
Able to play at centre-back, fullback and in defensive midfield, Xavier linked up with the Singapore U-15 team in February, after his parents got in touch with the Football Association of Singapore.
The 1.74m Xavier, who is currently on his school holidays, will complete ninth grade (the equivalent of Secondary 3) in Finland next year, before returning for early enlistment into full-time national service (NS) .
Said Xavier, who is fluent in English, Finnish and Swedish: "I want to go on to play for the senior Inter side in the next few years.
"I am concerned about having to come back for NS next year, but it is something that I decided on doing together with my parents.
"At the moment, I am committed to playing for the national team."
Singapore have been drawn in Group A of the U-15 championship, which will take place from Saturday to Aug 9 in Chonburi, Thailand.
They will open their campaign against Myanmar on Saturday, before facing defending champions Indonesia, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and the Philippines.
Said Xavier: "We will give everything we have, like we have done in training, and hopefully we can do well in this tournament and reach the semi-finals, at least."