From Pasir Ris to Switzerland? Teen set for Swiss deal

Jordan Emaviwe could follow in the footsteps of Ahmad Hakimputra, the last Singaporean to play pro football in Europe. The 16-year-old of Nigerian and Singaporean descent may earn his NFL Division 2 team Academy Junior Football a tidy five-figure sum
Jordan Emaviwe could follow in the footsteps of Ahmad Hakimputra, the last Singaporean to play pro football in Europe. The 16-year-old of Nigerian and Singaporean descent may earn his NFL Division 2 team Academy Junior Football a tidy five-figure sum if he turns out for Swiss club FC Chiasso. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

He played the last 12 minutes of a friendly in which his team trounced their opponents 7-0 but it appears Singapore teen Jordan Emaviwe's cameo was enough to convince a Swiss second-tier football club to offer him a contract.

If all goes well, Jordan, a St Patrick's School student who has just completed his N levels, could follow in the footsteps of V. Sundram Moorthy in signing a first-team professional contract with a Swiss club.

The national head coach featured for then Swiss second division side FC Basel in the 1988-89 season. The last Singaporean to play pro football in Europe was Ahmad Hakimputra, who turned out for Hungary's Kaposvari Rakoczi in 2012 and 2013.

Last month, Jordan, 16, who plays for National Football League (NFL) Division 2 side Academy Junior Football, went to Italy for a two-week open trial with three of his team-mates at Serie D Group B club ASDP Ciliverghe di Mazzano.

The 1.89m, 81kg central midfielder caught the eye of a scout from FC Chiasso, who are currently sixth in the 10-team, second-tier Swiss Challenge League.

He was invited to the municipality located at the Italian border, a 45-minute train ride away from Milan. There, he played in the friendly, which saw Chiasso beat fourth-tier side FC Morbio 7-0.

Chiasso team manager Andrea Maistrello told The Straits Times via e-mail: "Jordan impressed us for how he plays and for his physical potential. He is not 18 years old yet and he is as tall as a goalkeeper.

BAGS OF POTENTIAL

I have seen him grow from a 10-year-old to become this big, strong player. He is strong for his age and has a powerful left foot.

He can develop into a better footballer in Europe.

YAKOB HASHIM, football coach, on Jordan Emaviwe's prospects.

"We believe that, with the proper training, Jordan can become an elite player. The duration of the contract is yet to be defined."

It is understood that the deal is set to be completed when the European football transfer window re-opens in January.

Academy Junior could stand to receive a five-figure transfer fee for the teenager, who is also looking to further his studies in Switzerland.

Jordan was born to a Nigerian father who is a goalkeeping coach at a local academy and a Singaporean-Chinese mother who died of cancer in February.

He took up Mandarin as his mother tongue and attended White Sands Primary in Paris Ris before moving to St Patrick's.

The Manchester United fan tried out for the National Football Academy when he was 13, but was not selected. "It feels pretty surreal, but also pretty cool if I sign for a European club with a transfer fee," said Jordan, who joined Academy Junior in 2015 and scored one goal in five games in the NFL this season before a collarbone injury that has since healed.

"It's something I've always dreamt of. Chiasso may not be a household name here but it's still a European club and a good platform to continue my development.

"The environment is totally different from Singapore. It's a big jump in intensity during training and matches. I aim to stay and play at Chiasso for a few years to develop before working my way up to the top tier and hopefully get a chance to play in England."

It was Academy Junior's general manager Joe Keiser's contacts with Italian clubs such as Ciliverghe that opened the door for Jordan.

The 64-year-old American, who has 30 years of experience in coaching youths, said: "It's about which country offers the best opportunity for Singaporean footballers.

"Switzerland is ideal because it doesn't have the work permit issues that England has, and it has got conscription as well so they understand what National Service is about."

He added that Academy Junior is looking to take more of its trainees for trials in Europe.

Former national goalkeeper Yakob Hashim, who has been active in the local youth football scene as Anza Soccer head coach, feels Jordan can cut it in Europe.

"I have seen him grow from a 10-year-old to become this big, strong player," he said. "He is strong for his age and has a powerful left foot. He can be developed into a better footballer in Europe."

While he grew up wanting to playing for Nigeria like his idol John Obi Mikel, Jordan remains open to representing his country of birth.

"If Singapore calls me up first, of course I will take it," he said. "But for now, I still have areas to improve on, such as my pace. I just want to continue learning and working hard to go as far as I can."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2017, with the headline 'From Pasir Ris to Switzerland? Teen set for Swiss deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe