Brains over brawn

Bayern Munich great and World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler (right), together with Sebastian Dremmler, head coach of Bayern's international programme, giving Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali some feedback at the FC Bayern Youth Cup Singapore finals yesterda
Bayern Munich great and World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler (right), together with Sebastian Dremmler, head coach of Bayern's international programme, giving Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali some feedback at the FC Bayern Youth Cup Singapore finals yesterday. The 15-year-old is one of 16 players shortlisted to represent Singapore at the Bayern Youth Cup World Finals in Munich in May.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Bayern great says small-built footballers in S'pore can excel with skills, quick thinking

Bayern Munich great and 1990 World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler roamed the Jurong East Stadium pitch yesterday morning, scouring for talent at the FC Bayern Youth Cup Singapore finals.

It took the 61-year-old German just 10 minutes to be convinced of Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali's ability.

The Meridian Secondary School student was one of 16 players shortlisted by Augenthaler and Sebastian Dremmler, head coach of Bayern's international programme, to represent Singapore at the Bayern Youth Cup World Finals in Munich in May.

A final team of 10 will make the trip for the seven-a-side, Under-16 competition which will feature eight teams from seven countries.

Augenthaler said the standard of football he witnessed was a "positive surprise".

When asked if Singapore's youth players are at a disadvantage against Europeans because of their smaller build, the former defender, who played 404 Bundesliga matches and won seven league titles with Bayern, disagreed.

"It's not about the physique," said the 1.82m Augenthaler, who played 27 times for the former West Germany from 1983 to 1990.

SIZE DOESN'T MATTER

In football, you need a lot of skill, you need to be smart, you need to be quick.

KLAUS AUGENTHALER, Bayern Munich great, on the requirements of a good player.

"The first guy (Asis) we selected, after 10 minutes? He was the smallest one we picked in the end.

"In football, you need a lot of skill, you need to be smart, you need to be quick.

"When we won the World Cup (in 1990), we had three or four small players like Pierre Littbarski (1.68m) and Thomas Hassler (1.66m)."

The 1.55m, 41kg Asis is thrilled at being shortlisted for the trip to Germany. The 15-year-old had made the news in April 2016 when Turkish giants Galatasaray and Dutch side Feyenoord Rotterdam expressed an interest to invite him to train with them after watching videos of him.

And even though he has played in minor tournaments in Holland and Portugal for the private academy he was a part of then, a move to a club in Europe never materialised, partly owing to the fact he was underage and is not from the European Union.

"I'm very excited to get the chance to challenge myself in Europe again," said Asis, who is now part of the ActiveSG football academy. "I did not expect to get selected today because there were older boys and I think I did not play to my best.

"But I want to keep improving and play better, and work hard to achieve my goal, which is still to play overseas."

National sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) also announced a three-year partnership with record 28-time German champions Bayern yesterday.

The tie-up will see both parties join efforts to continue to organise the FC Bayern Youth Cup - into its third edition this year - as well as participate in coach exchanges and overseas education programmes.

Bayern executive board member Joerg Wacker said the club experienced Singaporeans' passion for football when their first team featured in the pre-season International Champions Cup tournament in July 2017.

"In the past two years, we feel that we share the same vision for football and we are proud to extend our work with SportSG," he said.

"Bayern is committed to contribute extensively and positively to the youth football development in Singapore for many years."

Added SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin: "We are very happy to have a famous global brand in football as a long-term partner to enrich our existing programmes.

"There is a lot to learn from them with their longstanding record of producing well-rounded players."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline 'Brains over brawn'. Print Edition | Subscribe