TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominee: Ryaan Sanizal
The New Paper wraps up our series on TNP Dollah Kassim Award nominees with Ryaan Sanizal
Lions skipper Hariss Harun became Singapore's youngest international when he made his bow at 16 in 2007.
Young footballer Ryaan Sanizal, 16, hopes to match that feat next year.
The captain of the Football Association of Singapore's Football Academy (FFA) Under-16 team has shown so much potential that he was fast-tracked to the U-17 squad in August.
Always setting high targets for himself, Ryaan, who plays in defence, told The New Paper that he is aiming for a spot with the senior national team next.
"It's always been my dream to represent Singapore, so to be on track (to achieve my dreams) in the FFA set-up has been quite an achievement for me," Ryaan said.
"I was promoted to the Under-17s this year, so I'm hoping that next year, I can earn a spot in the national team."
During his first international tournament in the Asean Football Federation Under-15 Championship last year, the Singapore Sports School student's heart swelled with pride as he sang the national anthem before playing the matches.
Citing that as inspirational, he said: "That's my proudest moment to date, because it was the first time we sang the national anthem before a game.
"It's always an honour to play with the flag on your chest, but that was a first I definitely won't forget."
With dreams of playing in Europe one day, Ryaan dedicates his passion for the sport to his father, Sanizal Jamil, whose footballing journey was short-lived due to an injury.
Said Ryaan: "My father played only until the Under-20 age group before he got injured...
"It was unfortunate for him because he still loves the sport very much.
Every player in the team respects him on and off the pitch.FFA U-16 coach Ryo Shigaki, on Ryaan Sanizal
"So I guess here I am now, trying to make a name for myself and make him proud."
Having earned a nomination for The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award could mean a step closer to realising his dream of playing overseas.
The winner will get an overseas training stint with a reputable academy, courtesy of Singapore Pools.
But Ryaan insists he's still far from where he wants to be.
He admits he has always been hard on himself, and refuses to think that his accomplishments are praiseworthy, yet.
"Honestly, there's still so much work to be done. I've still got a long, long way to go," said Ryaan.
"If I want to make it far in football, I have to be very critical with myself because there has to be something that makes me stand out from millions of people out there chasing after the same dream."
Ryaan's footballing abilities and character have impressed FFA U-16 coach Ryo Shigaki, who believes he is capable of playing with the big boys.
Said Shigaki: "Every player in the team respects him on and off the pitch, because he has a very good character.
"At the rate he's going, he's good enough to play with older players because he's a hard worker who has a strong desire to improve."
For now, Ryaan is excited by his dream of playing alongside the national players he grew up watching.
"I know I'm nowhere near their level yet, but if the opportunity comes, I'll be ready to grab it."
Name: Ryaan Sanizal
Date of birth: 31 May 2002
Favourite team: Chelsea
Favourite player: Antonio Ruediger