Dollah Kassim Award: Saifullah targets stint in Europe
Confident Saifullah aims to play in Europe
Only 16, Saifullah Akbar is remarkably self-assured when he talks.
The National Football Academy (NFA) attacking midfielder, one of the six nominees for this year's The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award, knows what he wants.
When asked about his ambition, he replied confidently: "To play in Europe professionally.
"I hope to earn a contract as soon as I complete my National Service.
"And my goal is to be there for a while, really make a career there."
Saifullah insists he knows what it takes to compete against youngsters in Europe, having had his share of overseas training attachments.
His football journey has taken him to stints at France's FC Metz and England's Queens Park Rangers.
Earlier this year, he also impressed at Australian club Newcastle Jets, with assistant coach Mark Jones deeming him "too good" for the club's Under-16 team, and pushing him up to train with the U-18 side.
In July, he shone in the Lion City Cup for the NFA Under-16 team against their counterparts from English giants Liverpool, notching up two eye-catching assists in a 3-3 draw while wearing the skipper's armband.
Saifullah was recently included in a shortlist of talented youngsters the Football Association of Singapore is looking to send on extended stints abroad, possibly in France or Spain.
"In terms of technique, how fast I need to think and to play, I think I can match them (his European counterparts)," said the 1.65m-tall, 55kg youngster.
"But in terms of physique, I lag behind a lot of them.
"However, I don't want to carry heavy weights now because I don't want to disturb my growth.
"I just do light weights and more repetitions, to strengthen parts I need to."
Saifullah's methodical approach in his development has been helped by the fact his father, Akbar Nawas, is a football coach.
The 39-year-old led several NFA teams previously and is currently assistant to V Sundramoorthy at S.League giants Tampines Rovers.
"I actually let him pick up the game at his own pace," said Akbar.
"We bought him a ball when he was six, he loved playing with it, so we enrolled him in a private football academy.
"Then, when he was 10, we took him for open trials at a Junior Centre of Excellence, and he was selected."
While he acknowledges his son's potential, dad knows there is much room for improvement.
"His strength is his ability to process a lot of information before he receives the ball, he's very aware of things and has good vision," said Akbar.
"But the area he needs to work on is getting into the box more. He needs to believe in his ability to score goals."
Saifullah is keen to win the Dollah Kassim Award.
"It's important, it's prestigious, it's another opportunity for me to go overseas. So of course, I dream of winning it."
NAME: Saifullah Akbar
BORN: Jan 31, 1999
TEAM: NFA Under-16
POSITION: Attacking midfielder
FAVOURITE PLAYER: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
FAVOURITE CLUB: Chelsea
PET PEEVE: Hypocrites
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