Two 13-year-olds set for training stint in Holland
They will train with the Under-15 side of Dutch club De Graafschap for a week.
He started playing competitive football only last year.
But 13-year-old Rauf Abdul Raheem will leave Singapore tonight for a training stint at the club that produced Holland marksman Klaas Jan Huntelaar, hoping he can make the grade.
Rauf is one of two local boys - the other is his classmate at Coral Secondary School, Zakaria Syari Aidit, also 13 - who will train with the Under-15 side of Dutch club De Graafschap for a week.
The trip is organised by Indra Taib, who runs a company called In-Sports, a consultancy which also has an arm aimed at helping develop individual players through twice-weekly training sessions.
The two boys are part of In-Sports' training programme.
Said Rauf, a speedy left-winger: "I started playing in tournaments only last year, when I joined Coral Secondary School, because my primary school (Casuarina Primary) did not have a school team.
"I feel very excited to have this chance to experience what Dutch football is like.
"We train very hard in Singapore, so we want to show them what we can do."
Zakaria, a midfielder who previously played for the youth teams of S.League clubs Warriors FC, Balestier Khalsa and Home United, added: "This is our first time going abroad to play, so we're really excited.
"I hope we can learn their ways and come back stronger and with better knowledge, but our big goal is to get selected by the coaches there."
DAD'S PROUD MOMENT
Rauf's father, warehouse operations manager Abdul Raheem, said: "Rauf's cousin is (national striker) Iqbal Hussain and it has always been his dream to also play football.
"So when I was told he was selected for this trip, I felt very proud because this kind of opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
"I hope this experience can benefit him and maybe even give him what he needs to play in Europe one day."
Indra, whose son Ahmad Hakimputra played professional football with Kaposvari Rakoczi in Hungary in 2012 and 2013, says Rauf and Zakaria are good enough to mix it with the boys in De Graafschap. Hakimputra is now head coach at In-Sport.
"We are hoping Rauf and Zak will be invited to return and be part of the academy for the next two years," explained Indra.
"From there, they can hopefully develop enough to move into the (U-16) youth teams. These boys are on a par with the youth players in Holland."
Indra previously arranged a Holland trip for another Singaporean youngster, Faridzuan Fuad.
The forward had a two-month trial with NEC Nijmegen's reserve side early last year and was said to have impressed their coaches, but returned to Singapore as he had a contract with the Prime League (U-21) team of S.League side Tampines Rovers.
Local football great Fandi Ahmad is the only Singaporean footballer to have plied his trade in Holland.
The 54-year-old, who is presently assisting national team head coach V Sundramoorthy, played in the Dutch Eredivisie for FC Groningen from 1983 to 1985.
"Our big goal is to get selected by the coaches there."
— Zakaria Syari Aidit (above, right)