Singapore Premier League

Khairin already making waves at 16

League's youngest player scores first goal on Tuesday and is in contention for SEA Games

Khairin Nadim draws effusive praise from Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir, who says the schoolboy has a good football brain and confidence.
Khairin Nadim draws effusive praise from Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir, who says the schoolboy has a good football brain and confidence.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

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It was an instinctive finish and offered a glimpse of Khairin Nadim's scoring potential as he wrote his name into the record books.

The Young Lions striker's goal in his team's 3-1 defeat by Tampines Rovers on Tuesday night meant that, at 16 years and 194 days old, he became the third-youngest player to score in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).

He missed national captain Hariss Harun's mark by only 20 days, a milestone he probably would have overtaken had the pandemic not halted the SPL for seven months.

He has quickly moved on from that missed opportunity and, while time is on his side, he is not planning to waste any.

Ahead of today's game against Balestier Khalsa, Khairin told The Straits Times: "The feeling (of accomplishment) from scoring my first goal is gone already, and now I want to do much more.

"It took me a few games to score that first goal, so to be honest I was not too happy.

"There are six more games this season, and I want at least two more goals. Only then can I be a little bit more satisfied."

He does own one record though - the league's youngest player, after he made his debut aged 15 years and 298 days as a substitute against Hougang United in March. He has featured in eight of the Young Lions nine matches this season.

Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir was effusive in his praise for his budding forward.

"When I see him in training or on the pitch, I sometimes forget he is 16," said the former Lions skipper.​

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"He has got a good football brain and confidence, and I never had a doubt he would get his goal."

Calling Khairin a hard worker and team player, Nazri noted the youngster will need to develop physically to compete against bigger and stronger defenders.

The Woodlands Secondary School student is filling out nicely. He has grown more than 10cm to 1.72m since the start of this year and has also gained 10kg to his current 63kg.

He acknowledged he is far from the finished product.

"I need to improve my strength because I am quite weak in the air, and in one-on-one challenges with defenders," he said.

Nazri could take the reins of the Under-22 squad for the SEA Games in Vietnam next November - a head coach has not been formally announced - and is satisfied with his players' development in this truncated league campaign.

The team, most of whom are playing in their first SPL season, are still susceptible to occasional "schoolboy mistakes", but the 49-year-old coach said he has seen a positive development in their tactical awareness.

He expects about two-thirds of the squad, including Khairin, to be in contention for the biennial Games.

There have been some commendable performances this term. Against top clubs Tampines, Hougang United and the Lion City Sailors, the Young Lions either led or kept the scores level at half-time.

They eventually lost all three games, partly because their opponents were no longer required to field three U-23 players in their line-up after the interval, according to league rules.

"This is where I told my players we need to stay very focused and minimise mistakes," said Nazri.

"The mental aspect is the most important part for them to improve now, because it is also key at international level."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Khairin already making waves at 16'. Subscribe