Rusyaidi becomes seventh winner of TNP Dollah Kassim Award
At second time of asking, fullback becomes seventh winner of TNP Dollah Kassim Award
The annual award was launched in 2010 and, every two years, the presentation of the top individual trophy for young talent in Singapore - The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award - inadvertently coincides with the AFF Suzuki Cup, the top football competition in South-east Asia.
In 2010, Ammirul Emmran Mazlan, then aged 15, got the nod and the senior internationals failed to get out of the group stage of the competition.
In 2012, the Lions stormed to what was then a record fourth Asean crown, while R Aaravin claimed the individual honour back home.
In 2014, the Lions suffered the ignominy of a first-round exit on home soil, with Muhelmi Suhaimi named as TNP Dollah Kassim award winner.
Looking at the cycle, perhaps the Lions could be in for a special finish at this year's Suzuki Cup.
Less than 12 hours before the tournament kicked off in Manila yesterday, Rusyaidi Salime's name boomed out of the speakers at Jurongville Secondary School, as he became the seventh recipient of the Dollah Kassim award, which is meant for youngsters who exhibit excellent technical work and stellar character.
The 18-year-old right back was selected from a group of six nominees - centre backs Irfan Najeeb, 17, Nur Adam Abdullah, 15, and Qayumm Raishyan, 16, 16-year-old striker Danial Syafiq Mustaffa and central midfielder Justin Hui, 18.
A beaming Rusyaidi, who was also nominated in 2014, said "It was a surprising win for me, a pleasant surprise.
"The other five nominees are very talented players... I've worked very hard and it just goes to show that your hard work will eventually pay off."
Rusyaidi's parents and big sister were present at the event yesterday and dad Salime, a boarding officer, said: "We are very proud and extremely happy.
"My favourite sport is football and, ever since Rusyaidi started playing with the Garena Young Lions, I have always been going down to his games and supporting him.
"I just hope he will not stop working hard and that he will continue to work on his stamina with discipline."
Mum Rohaizah, a full-time housewife, said: "I don't know much about football, but I can only pray he will do his best in whatever his passion is.
"If I had to choose between his studies and football, of course I would want him to focus on his studies.
"Studies still come first no matter what, but I'm very proud of him."
An initiative of The New Paper, in collaboration with the Football Association of Singapore, the award is named after the late Singapore international Dollah Kassim, who delighted so many during the 1970s with his attacking skills and was affectionately known as the "Gelek King."
Dominic Nathan, editor of The New Paper, believes the award can be used as a platform to boost Singapore football.
"This award does recognise the past and the present, but we also hope to build something for the future," he said.
"This award can be used as a platform to build the future, especially when we've seen good players emerge as winners over the last few years who could potentially flourish in national colours.
"The award is meaningful, it honours a football legend in Singapore, Dollah Kassim, so in a way, it is an initiative to contribute back to Singapore football."
"I’ve worked very hard and it just goes to show that your hard work will eventually pay off."
- Rusyaidi Salime