TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominee: Abdul Rasaq
The New Paper continues our series on TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominees with Abdul Rasaq Ishiekwene Akeem
He has played for the Football Association of Singapore's Football Academy (FFA) Under-13 side up to the U-17, but Abdul Rasaq Ishiekwene Akeem knows he cannot rest on his laurels and has to keep improving himself if he wants to go further.
In fact, that has been his mantra. The attacking midfielder has been honing his skills and developing his physique, squeezing in additional gym sessions amid his already hectic schedule which involves balancing school and training.
Such has been his commitment and discipline that FFA U-17 coach Fadzuhasny Juraimi nominated the Singapore Sports School student for this year's TNP Dollah Kassim Award.
The award, in its ninth year, recognises the best local players, aged 18 and below, who have excelled on the pitch and show exemplary values off it.
The award winner will get an overseas training stint with a reputable academy, courtesy of Singapore Pools.
"Rasaq has improved tremendously this year," coach Fadzuhasny told TNP.
"He has put in so much effort in the gym and has grown physically. He is stronger now."
As an attacking midfielder, Rasaq acknowledges that having a good physique is vital.
"By being stronger and bigger, my teammates are able to find me up front and I am able to hold the ball and lay it off to others," said Rasaq, 17.
But he is aware that his role also requires him to alleviate his strikers' scoring burden, and that has been his shortcoming.
That view is shared by Fadzuhasny, who said that Rasaq is not single-minded and that he tends to pass rather than shoot. He added that Rasaq is not clinical in his finishing.
"My finishing is my weakness," Rasaq said.
"My coach has pointed that out to me as well and I'm very grateful for his feedback.
"He told me that I need to be more composed and I have put in a concerted effort in improving my finishing since."
It is a huge accomplishment and it motivates me to work even harder.Rasaq, on being nominated for the award
Fadzuhasny added: "Rasaq's motivation and willingness to learn have helped a great deal.
"His discipline on and off the pitch has been key to him realising his vast potential."
Rasaq, who is half-Nigerian, hopes his hard work will eventually land him an Australian top-flight contract in the future.
But, for now, he is focused on making the squad for the Asean Football Federation U-18 tournament and the Asian Football Confederation U-19 qualifying campaign next year.
On being nominated for the TNP Dollah Kassim Award, Rasaq said: "Obviously, I am delighted. It is a huge accomplishment and it motivates me to work even harder.
"It just shows that my hard work and commitment pay off as people recognise my efforts.
"I'm just very grateful for this opportunity."
Name: Abdul Rasaq Ishiekwene Akeem
Team: FFA U-17
Position: Attacking midfielder
Date of birth: June 16, 2001
Favourite team: Liverpool
Favourite player: Lionel Messi