The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award nominee: Danial Syafiq Mustaffa
One-time defender Danial is now a recognised scorer with a big ambition
For the longest time, Danial Syafiq Mustaffa's job on the field has been to stop strikers from scoring goals.
In a twist of fate, he then became one seeking goals, after joining the National Football Academy's (NFA) Under-17s at the start of the year.
The team lacked options up front and he got the job, and took to his new role like a duck to water.
Danial is one of six on the shortlist for this year's TNP-Dollah Kassim Award, which aims to recognise local players below the age of 18 who have excelled on the pitch while displaying exemplary values off it.
NFA U-17 coach Christophe Chaintreuil made the decision to switch Danial to a striker and, speaking to TNP recently, Chaintreuil said: "He still needs to learn and work hard, but he is an intelligent player and technically sound.
"Most importantly, he is a scorer and this is a rare and precious commodity for the team."
Danial, who already stands at 1.76m, netted 11 goals in the recently-concluded Prime League season to finish as the joint-fourth top scorer, with only one other local - NFA Under-18's Syukri Bashir - scoring more.
BACK TO FRONT
"Actually, I started out playing more as a centre back or defensive midfielder," he said, when asked about his transformation.
"Due to a lack of strikers this year, the coach decided to try me there and I think I scored 10 or 11 goals this year."
Interestingly enough, it appears that the striker's instinct could have been in Danial all this while.
According to his mother, Anis Arshad, Danial played in attack when he was younger and always knew his way to goal.
Juggling football with studies, Danial's schedule sometimes sees him attending classes from 9am to 5pm.
He then takes a short break before heading for a two-hour training session.
By his own admission, he usually does not have time for anything else but his mum, who first noticed his talent when he was five, believes he has the necessary qualities to cope.
"In terms of discipline and punctuality, he has always had them," said Anis, an administrative assistant.
"When he was younger, he would always be on time and he used to wake me up at 6am when his training starts at 8am.
"In our whole family, he's the only one who's reached this level, so everyone is really behind him and supporting him in this pursuit."
Danial, who turns 17 next month, named versatile Singapore star Safuwan Baharudin as his favourite local player.
And there is a similarity between them.
Safuwan made a name for himself as a centre back when he first broke onto the scene but, recently, he has been deployed further up the field.
While Safuwan just finished his spell with PDRM in the Malaysian Super League, Danial's dream is to follow in the footsteps of another Lions star, Hariss Harun.
"Of course, the goal is to one day play for the national team, but I also hope I can play overseas," added the 16-year-old.
"Maybe across the border at JDT (Johor Darul Ta'zim)."
Due to a lack of strikers this year, the coach decided to try me there and I think I scored 10 or 11 goals this year.
— NFA U-17’s Danial Syafiq
He still needs to learn and work hard, but he is an intelligent player and technically sound.
— NFA U-17 coach Christophe Chaintreuil
Name: Danial Syafiq Mustaffa Current team: NFA U-17
Date of birth: Dec 29, 1999
Favourite team: Manchester United
Favourite players: Safuwan Baharudin, Andres Iniesta