by Wong Jeng Teng
On a typical Saturday morning, parents and their children can be seen flooding the stands of Kallang Cricket Field as the ActiveSG Football Academy training sessions for both junior and youth members take place, under the guidance of principal Aleksandar Duric and his team of coaches.
Since its introduction earlier this year, the ActiveSG Football Academy has enjoyed an overwhelming response in terms of sign-ups for its Junior category, catering to children aged six to 12. Its Youth category, targeted at ages 13 to 16, is looking to catch up.
As to why the youth team has not enjoyed a similar level of success, Duric believed it was related to a lack of exposure to football from a young age. He said, “If they didn’t have any access to the sport (in the earlier years), it’s very hard to convince them to come.”
According to the former Singapore international, teens who have not tried football may think they are too old to start out as a beginner, but taking the first step to try may be just what they need to realise their passion for the sport.
“That’s the big challenge for us, to convince them that it’s never (too) late,” said Duric.
The ActiveSG Football Academy principal knows all about starting late, with his professional football career kicking off only at age of 22.
“Being 13 or 14, you have so much time, and with our coaches and training, trust me that in six months’ time you will be perfectly able to play for any school or league,” he said.
These are encouraging words for 15-year-old Tan Jing Kai, who signed up for the youth academy as a beginner to football after developing an interest only in the recent months.
“It was only this year that I started playing football more with my classmates, so that’s why I got more interested,” said Tan, who was attending the youth training alongside his 14-year-old brother.
He was keen on seeking proper instruction to improve his gameplay, and has since grown more confident in his skills, after just a few sessions since the start of the season.
“Over here, we do warm-up (and) basic drills, so we get better with our foundation, compared to just playing with friends, (where) we just pick up the ball and start kicking,” said Tan, praising the proper training structure the academy has provided him with.
Attending the academy also provides him with opportunities to gain more exposure, and play with people of different skill levels, such as his fellow member Yush Anand.
Anand, 15, also spoke about the quality training provided by the academy, in comparison to his varsity team at Stanford American International School.
“I think they provide more fitness drills. In my school, it’s just passing and moving around,” said Anand, who regards the academy as a valuable addition to his existing training schedule.
For enthusiastic youths such as Tan and Anand, the ActiveSG Football Academy provides opportunities to further engage with the football scene.
Those with the potential and interest to pursue football professionally will also be picked out to receive a higher level of training from the coaches, and potentially even play in the S.League.
Coaching courses are also provided for those aged 15 or 16, who may be interested in volunteering with the junior academy, or to take on a coaching career in the future.
Of course, at the end of the day, having a good time and creating valuable memories remains one of the top priorities for Duric and his charges at the Academy.
“I would want them to remember (that) they were part of the family – the ActiveSG Football Academy family,” said Duric, who hopes for football to leave a significant impact on the lives of his players, as it did on him.
Interested in football and want to hone your skills with the best? Or perhaps you are a parent wishing to expose your child to the beautiful game?
If your answer to either of the above is yes, then ActiveSG Football Academy is the place for you to be at. Led by former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric, and five head coaches with experience from the highest level of football in Singapore: Richard Bok, Robin Chitrakar, Hyrizan Jufri, Mohamad Hairil Amin, Isa Halim, and Steven Tan, ActiveSG Football Academy has a holistic football programme designed to build character and impart the right skills while encouraging trainees to pursue their sporting passion with the right attitude.
To find out more or sign up for the academy, visit this link here.