TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominee: Iman Hakim Ibrahim
The New Paper continues our series on TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominees with Iman Hakim Ibrahim
At the age of 10, Iman Hakim Ibrahim failed to impress during selection trials for his school's football team. But he did not give up there and then.
Determined to make the cut the following year, he turned the frustration into motivation, putting in extra hours to hone his craft.
Whenever he had free time, he would pick up a ball and work relentlessly on his dribbling skills at a basketball court near his home.
His hard work paid off as he was picked for the school team the following year and has never looked back since.
He got into the Singapore Sports School and was even made vice-captain of the Football Association of Singapore's Football Academy (FFA) Under-16 team.
This year, the 16-year-old showed so much potential that he was fast-tracked to the FFA U-17 team in August.
He may not be as tall as others, but he is able to control the game well .FFA U-16 coach Ryo Shigaki
His impressive season has earned him a nomination for The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award, an accolade for the most deserving youth footballer.
Recalling that heartbreaking rejection six years ago, Iman said: "I was one of the worst players in the team (in primary school), probably because I was scared to play football.
"I was afraid of making mistakes and letting the team down."
After earning his place in the team the following year, Iman realised that the only thing that stood between him and his football dreams was sheer hard work.
He said: "I was happy just being able to play football but, when I realised that working hard at something I love could bring me somewhere, I started believing in myself more.
"I guess it's not so bad that I didn't get in the first time, it made me come back stronger."
Iman hopes to follow in the footsteps of former teen prodigy and Sports School alumnus, Adam Swandi, who won the TNP Dollah Kassim Award in 2011.
If he wins the award, Iman will also get an overseas training stint with a reputable academy, courtesy of Singapore Pools, just like Adam did.
Adam, who went on to play for Albirex Niigata in the Singapore Premier League this season and earned a call-up to the senior national team, continues to inspire Iman, who dreams of playing football in Japan someday.
Said Iman: "When I saw Adam making a name for himself during the (2011) Lion City Cup, I told myself that it's not impossible to be like him.
"Who knows? Maybe one day I can even play in the same team as him."
FFA Under-16 coach Ryo Shigaki believes that Iman is the embodiment of an intelligent midfielder whom his peers should learn from.
"Iman's technical abilities are really good, even better than some older age group players," said Shigaki, of the 1.65m midfielder.
"He may not be as tall as others, but he is able to control the game well and I can always count on him to play the extra minutes."
But for Iman, his minutes on the field don't matter as much.
"It's always nice to start, or play a full game. But for me, as long as I give my all and help the team in any way that I can, that's the best way to win."
Name: Iman Hakim Ibrahim
Team: FFA U-16
D.O.B.: 9 March 2002
Favourite team: Arsenal
Favourite player: Xavi Hernandez