TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominee Iman toughens up in face of challenges
His gym work complements that on the pitch, where he shows superb technical abilities, says his coach Shahrin
Following a training stint with J2 League club Omiya Ardija last December, Iman Hakim Ibrahim had anticipated greater football development entering 2019.
But, when that did not go as expected, the Singapore Sports School (SSP) student, 17, decided to take an alternate route to make up for lost time - by clocking hours in the gym instead.
Standing at 1.66m, Iman acknowledged that he did not have a height advantage. So if he wanted to go toe to toe with bigger opponents, he would have to match their strength.
"I knew that physicality will be important as I get older," said Iman. "So, if I want to progress quicker, I have to put in more time not just on the field, but at the gym as well.
"I'd go to the gym in school or at Jalan Besar Stadium more than twice a week. Diet-wise, I try to eat bigger portions and more protein, especially after training for better recovery."
His persistence and dedication to building a better physique have paid off.
This year, he has added 10kg to his previous 48kg frame and the gain in muscle mass has made a telling difference on the pitch, noted Iman's coach Shahrin Shari.
Said the 52-year-old: "It's clear that Iman has been putting in time in the gym because he's shown better strength and conditioning.
"He's been looking stronger on the pitch and he has a very strong will to improve his game in every possible aspect, so it's definitely going to help him in the long run."
In the process, Iman, who was with the national Under-17s last year, earned himself a first-team place with the national U-18s , after finding himself on the bench earlier in the season.
He also earned a second nomination for The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award, which recognises the best local youth footballers.
The winner will get an overseas training stint with a reputable academy, courtesy of Singapore Pools.
"I didn't expect to be nominated again because this year was challenging for me, so I definitely feel like the hunger to win it this time around is greater than before," Iman admitted.
Even so, Iman still feels he has more to do in order to catch up with his peers, some of whom are already playing in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
He might be rubbing shoulders with them soon, as three SPL clubs have expressed an interest in him.
FALL IN PLACE
Shahrin believes that things will fall in place for Iman, if he continues on the right track.
"While his peers might have gone on to play with clubs, Iman's taking a slightly longer route. But that doesn't mean it's less opportunistic," Shahrin asserted.
"Iman has been a standout this season and his reputation has been growing for a while now. He's a better all-rounder than I saw before; he has superb technical abilities like Adam Swandi, and not many players have that now.
"He's one of the few players who dare to keep the ball in possession, especially under pressure, and that's what many coaches are looking for these days."
Shahrin foresees a bright future for Iman, as he believes the go-getter is only at the beginning of his journey.
"Iman offers uniqueness and creativity to the team, and he should embrace the opportunities that are to come," he said.
"He knows what he wants and he's on the right track, I really hope he will flourish in his next environment and earn what he deserves."
Name: Iman Hakim Ibrahim
Team: Singapore Sports School
D.O.B: March 9, 2002
Favourite team: Arsenal
Favourite player: Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)