THEY started on a little grass patch in front of their home, playing kickabout with their father, like most young footballers around the world.
Except brothers Adam and Amer Hakeem had a rather special introduction to the game as their dad is former national football captain Nazri Nasir, who is now the coach of the national Under-15 side.
All three will feature in the Canon Lion City Cup youth tournament which begins tomorrow at Jalan Besar Stadium.
While Adam, 16, will turn out for the National Football Academy's Under-16 side, 15-year-old Amer will be playing for the team his dad coaches.
Nazri is well aware that playing the dual role of father and coach to his sons can sometimes be a tricky situation.
The 42-year-old admits to being stricter on 1.8m-tall Amer who will play in defence when the U-15s take on Brazil side Corinthians in their opening match tomorrow. "I treat everybody fairly, but for Amer, expectations are very high because I am his father," said Nazri.
"Other parents may be looking at it differently; if he is just another normal player, people will question why he is in the squad.
"Amer knows the demand is there. He knows my expectations and he expects that of himself too."
Adam, who has also been coached by Nazri, admitted that he had also felt pressure to perform at a higher level than his team-mates.
Said the 1.92m-tall player who also plays in defence: "At first, it was kind of difficult as people would say, 'Hey Adam, you're the coach's son lah.'
"But I got used to it. He treats me like every other player. Once I was fooling around, and he scolded me and told me to get off the field."
While Nazri may wield an iron fist on the touchline, he tries to keep that side of their relationship there.
At home, he turns into a playful dad.
Said Adam: "He is very different. On the field, he demands a lot; at home, he is really nice, very relaxed.
"He likes to crack jokes with us."
Amer agreed, adding: "When we are home, we don't talk about football, except when we are watching the Singapore national team and the English Premier League."
Indeed, at home is where Nazri pampers his sons.
Said the man who was once feared throughout the region for his tough-tackling style: "After training, I forget. I pat their backs and tell them it's okay. I tell them, 'You did wrong but it's all part and parcel of the game, you will learn.'
"I cannot go hard on them outside of training."
In tomorrow's other game, the national U-16 side take on Arsenal. Tickets from $9 (concession price) are on sale at www.ticketbooth.com.sg.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 7, 2013
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