SINGAPORE -A group of Singaporean youngsters, aged 8-16, trained at the Sporting CP Soccer Academy - the famed youth system of Sporting Lisbon that produced flamboyant players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Luis Figo and Ricardo Quaresma, from Oct 15-22.
The 24 players lived in the academy premises alongside their Portuguese counterparts and experienced life as an aspiring professional as they trained, played friendlies and ate balanced diets.
Amongst the group of Singaporean players, the training stint of two boys was sponsored by the Singapore branch of Sporting's academy. Ajay Robson and Muhammad Danial, both 14,had impressed the academy during open trials in July.
They were first selected because of their positive personal attributes as well as their playing abilities.
"I got to know of the trial through Danial and I thought that it was going to be difficult to be selected." Ajay said.
Danial however saw it as a learning opportunity, "I got to know of the trial through the academy's Instagram account and shared it with Ajay. For me, I came for the trials wanting to learn new things and play better football."
During their stay in the academy, the players underwent five training sessions and played friendly games against local Sporting Soccer Schools. Sessions were conducted by two of Sporting's most senior technical directors - Nuno Figueiredo and Rui Reis.
Ajay said: "The coaches were unbelievable with a big focus on teaching us how to solve problems that we face on the pitch by using the Sporting methodology principles. Their instructions were very different from my school football team."
Danial added: "After being coached by Nuno and Rui, I felt that they understood me. They were able to identify my weaknesses and gave me advice on how to improve on them. The coaching we receive at the Singapore academy is based on the same principles and we have grown incredibly as players in the last few months".
Danial was also impressed by the skill of the Portuguese youngsters, saying: "In Portugal, we played younger boys who did not look physically strong, but they were very passionate and aggressive. They had incredible technique and a very good understanding of the game as well."
He also added: "Back home, I could eat at any time I wish to, but in the academy there was a time for us to train, eat and rest. I felt like a professional player. It was amazing how much one can improve and think differently about football in such a short space of time."