Tampines Rovers' teenage forward Marc Tan relishing top-tier exposure
Tampines' teenage forward Tan grateful for AFC Champions League experience
Tampines Rovers' first steps in their maiden Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign have not brought much joy after two defeats in as many games in Tashkent.
But the Stags are hoping that the experience will serve their young players well in the future.
The Singaporean side's 19-year-old forward Marc Tan has impressed after starting in both Group H losses - 2-0 and 1-0 to Gamba Osaka and Chiangrai United respectively.
Teammates Iman Hakim and Ryaan Sanizal - who are also 19 - as well as Irfan Najeeb and Amirul Haikal, both 21, also featured in the matches.
|JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS||TAMPINES ROVERS|
Speaking to The Straits Times ahead of Tampines' clash with South Korean champions Jeonbuk at the Lokomotiv Stadium today, Tan admitted his time in Uzbekistan has been a chastening experience.
He said: "The last two opponents have easily been the best I have ever faced. They are top-notch, both physically and in terms of their technique. It's been a huge step-up in terms of what I have been used to.
"The speed of the game is super quick. Back home, you have time to breathe and think but in the ACL, you don't get that at all."
Still, he values the opportunity to play in Asia's top club competition.
The only son of former Malaysia Cup star Steven Tan said that his father was eager to remind him that despite his achievements, he had never been able to play in the ACL.
The younger Tan's experience in the ACL is made even more special as the players he came up against are familiar ones he has used while playing the Fifa video game.
They include Osaka's Japanese internationals Gen Shoji and Takashi Usami, as well as Jeonbuk winger Modou Barrow - who previously turned out for Swansea City - South Korea defender Lee Yong and former Barcelona youth player Paik Seung-ho.
Tan, a final-year student at Temasek Polytechnic, said he is grateful for the playing time, adding: "It's never a good feeling to lose matches but I do believe that we will all use this as a great learning experience."
Tampines coach Gavin Lee is eager to see how his young charges apply what they have learnt when they return to the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
He said: "Giving young players an opportunity here is one of the things we wanted to check off the list and I've been pleased with them.
"Marc and the rest have worked hard for the chance and I am excited to see how they transfer what they have learnt to the SPL.
"The biggest challenge for Marc is to ensure that he maintains this hunger and desire to keep learning."
Tan and the rest of his teammates could be in for their toughest lesson tonight.
Jeonbuk, who have four points from two matches, are second in the group behind Osaka on goal difference. The South Korean side have won the ACL twice, in 2006 and 2016.While noting that the Stags have played well in their losses, Lee wants the performances to be translated into points.