Dollah Kassim Award nominee Joshua impresses FAS’ technical director Sablon
Understated Joshua has caught the eye of the FAS technical director
You could call Joshua Bernard Pereira a late bloomer.
The 18-year-old, one of six nominees for this year's The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award, has quietly progressed through the ranks at the National Football Academy while his peers Saifullah Akbar and Ikhsan and Irfan Fandi have made the headlines as future national players.
But Joshua, who stands at 1.79m, has found himself the centre of attention recently.
He was one of the national Under-18 team's stand-out performers during the qualification tournament for next year's AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Under-19 Championship.
CAUGHT THE EYE
While the Cubs finished third in their group in Bangkok last month, behind South Korea and Thailand, and failed to qualify for the finals in Bahrain, Joshua caught the eye of key personnel at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Technical director Michel Sablon, the mastermind behind Belgium's football blueprint that produced the likes of Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard, and national youth teams head coach Richard Tardy, who led Rwanda to the Under-17 World Cup, were both impressed.
Sablon told The New Paper: "You can see a player's true quality only when you put him against a higher level of opposition, which for us, are teams like Thailand and South Korea.
"This boy (Joshua) had a few very good moments against them.
"And his heading? Exceptional."
There are whispers within FAS that Joshua's aerial ability even matches that of LionsXII star Safuwan Baharudin.
What makes the youngster's rise even more remarkable is that he has had to bounce back from two leg breaks. He fractured his right fibula when he was 12 and then suffered a broken ankle four years later, in 2013.
They say the first cut is the deepest, but Joshua said he really felt the blow the second time he broke his leg.
"It was really tough because I badly wanted to play in the Lion City Cup that year," he said.
"It was the only chance for my batch to take part (in the prestigious tournament). But I couldn't.
"The only thing I could do was keep pushing myself to come back.
"So that's what I did."
The first-year hospitality and tourism management student at Temasek Polytechnic was rewarded for his recent performances in Thailand with an invitation to train with the Courts Young Lions, the Under-23 developmental team that play in the professional S.League.
"It's been good, definitely a step up," said Joshua, of the experience.
"You're never going to improve if you play at the same level.
"So it's good to play against older, better players."
Joshua, whose only previous opportunity for a training attachment abroad was as part of a Singapore Sports School selection who trained with the Under-18 side of J.League club Albirex Niigata, is hoping to win the Dollah Kassim Award.
"It would be an eye-opener," he said of the award, which comes with the Singapore Pools Passport to Excellence which funds a training stint at a reputable club overseas.
"It'd be good to see where I stand against them. My ambition is to make it big in football, to represent Singapore one day on the big stage, at the new National Stadium."
“You can see a player’s true quality only when you put him against a higher level of opposition... This boy had a few very good moments against them. And his heading? Exceptional.
— FAS technical director Michel Sablon was impressed with Joshua Bernard Pereira’s performance against Thailand and South Korea recently
- NAME: Joshua Bernard Pereira
- DATE OF BIRTH: 10 Oct, 1997
- TEAM: NFA Under-18
- POSITION: Central midfield
- FAVOURITE PLAYER: Ander Herrera
- FAVOURITE CLUB: Manchester United
- PET PEEVE: Arrogance
- TWITTER: @Joshuapereiraa_
The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award is back. This year, six of Singapore's brightest football prospects will be vying for the prestigious award for promising youngsters.
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