An eye-opener at Bayern
Singapore teens relishing their experience at Bayern Youth Cup world finals
If there is a country that can claim to be the best in developing football talents, it has to be reigning world champions Germany, who revamped their system after finishing bottom of their group at Euro 2000.
This week, nine boys representing Singapore at the FC Bayern Youth Cup world finals in Munich will experience first-hand what it's like to go through the paces at a club which produced Germany internationals such as Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller.
Aged 14 to 16, Zamani Zamri, Khairul Karim, Bill Abuzar, Danial Azman, Diego Zico, Aizal Ahmad, Izwan Chik, Ariffin Noor and, Zainus Subhan earned their tickets after impressing selectors at last month's FC Bayern Youth Cup Singapore.
The inaugural Under-16, seven-a-side competition held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design was locally organised by the F-17 Football Academy.
After a 15½-hour flight and a quick check-in at Hotel Limmerhof, the players, led by F-17 coach Habil Roslan, trained at Bayern's Sabener Strasse ground for their first session on Thursday (local time).
Under the watchful eye of Sebastian Dremmler, Bayern's head coach of international programmes, players from seven countries - Germany, Austria, China, India, Singapore, Thailand and the United States - went through an 80-minute session.
Divided into four groups, they were trained by Bayern youth coaches in passing, dribbling, one-versus-one, and two small-sided games at four stations.
Khairul said: "The first session was beneficial because having four stations at the same time with different coaches is not something we are used to in Singapore.
"We look forward to giving our best and learning more over the next few days."
After three training sessions, the players will watch Bayern's coronation tonight at their final Bundesliga game of the season against Freiburg at the Allianz Arena, before their own final on the same pitch tomorrow.
F-17 co-founder Mizra Ismail said of the Singaporean team who hail from four different schools and academies: "We believe in the concept of strength in unity and allowing talent to shine through.
"Therefore, we decided to pick a strongest possible team from the FC Bayern Youth Cup Singapore, which has always been the priority for us as it gives the boys and Singapore the best opportunity to impress globally.
"F-17 had been in contact with FC Bayern for some time to discuss opportunities to work together and this just clicked.
"Their professionalism and commitment to youth development gave us this chance to learn plenty from this collaboration."
Dremmler said candidly that the tournament is not a scouting mission, but added that it has evolved from a marketing and corporate social responsibility tool that began in 2012.
He said: "In the earlier years, we went to the slums in India and tsunami-hit areas in Japan to find players who otherwise wouldn't get such an opportunity.
"Even in Germany, we look out for immigrants, refugees and underprivileged youth in what we call caged leagues here.
"Now, the players get to watch a Bundesliga match, they can play at the Allianz Arena, meet the players, it is a very good package that we are very proud of because I think we are the only club in Europe to do this.
"In each training session at our headquarters, they will experience the same Bayern Munich programme - high-quality sessions with good coaches - as what we repeat with our youth teams.
"But it is more important that the players enjoy and learn something from this programme than for us to scout players."