Studies can wait, it’s football first for Lee
He is also a managing partner of an electrical firm and runs an online bakery
Two years ago, footballer Illyas Lee made a tough decision to defer his university education so that he could prepare for the 2017 SEA Games.
The Singapore Under-23s finished a spot shy of qualifying for the semi-finals, but Lee decided to defer his studies for another year to develop his football career.
|Home United||Balestier Khalsa|
The 23-year-old defender, who joined Balestier Khalsa this season, admitted that putting his mechanical engineering degree at the Nanyang Technological University on hold was a "scary sacrifice".
"All my friends were heading to university then. It made me think twice about whether I was making the wisest decision," said the former national U-16 captain.
"When I think about it now, if I had gone to school, I would already be halfway done with my degree.
"But it was entirely worth it. I'm still young and ambitious, so I'm using this time to get the most (in football)."
It certainly helped that his parents were fully supportive of his decision to put his studies on hold.
"I explained that I would eventually return to studying. I just needed the time to focus on what I am passionate about," said Lee.
He has certainly backed up his words with action. In the last two years, he kept his spot in the national U-23 team and was even appointed captain.
This year, he hopes to be called up to the senior national team and play all 24 games in the Singapore Premier League for Balestier. He played 20 games for Hougang United last season.
Off the pitch, Lee has also put his spare time to good use, delving into entrepreneurial interests.
He has been a managing partner of electrical company Ektar Engineering and Construction Enterprise since last September, alongside former 2010 Youth Olympic Games teammate, Sunny Ng.
Ng, also 23, took over his father's company and invited Lee to be his partner.
Besides that, Lee also manages an online home bakery, Miss Van Dough, with his girlfriend.
They have been whipping up cakes, brownies and cookies since the bakery was set up in November 2017.
"Honestly, I do miss learning and studying. But this is a good way to invest in myself," he added.
Balestier coach Khidhir Khamis believes Lee is making the right choice by getting the most out of his sporting potential while he is still young.
"Once you finish studying at about 27 years old, it would be difficult to get back into the game," said Khidhir, 33.
"Lee is smart enough to know what he wants. It's a good decision to achieve as much as he can in football first, before going back to studies."
On Sunday's match against Home United, who lost 5-0 to Philippine club Kaya-Iloilo in the AFC Cup on Wednesday, Khidhir added: "Maybe Home lost their confidence, but they have quality players who have resilience and, most importantly, know how to bounce back. We have to be careful not to be overconfident."
Lee agreed, saying: "We still have to fight hard and go in strong when we play against them."
- Albirex Niigata v Brunei DPMM (7.45pm, Jurong East Stadium)
- Geylang International v Tampines Rovers (5.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
- Hougang United v Warriors FC (5.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)