Nike Cup 2010 held on July 4 was the culmination of weeks of preliminaries, which saw more than 400 teams in the Junior (14 to 16 years old) and Senior (17 to 19 years old) age categories battle it out in 4 different urban locales in our Lion City: *SCAPE, Tampines Central Park, Sembawang Sun Plaza Park, and the Old NIE Examinations Centre at Margaret Drive. Only 100 teams from each category made it to the finals.
Every game was played at breakneck speed, as teams raced to score the one goal that will allow them to stay on the pitch (losers have to wait for another cycle of teams before they can play again).
“It was a great experience,” said Mansur, a year 2 Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. “Everything was so fast, but that’s the way I love my soccer.”
At 6 in the evening, after 4 continuous hours of soccer, the organizers tabulated the results to find the top 2 teams, in each category, with the most number of wins. During this hiatus, spectators and players alike were treated to a lineup of amazing entertainment.
First, up-and-coming band Tabular took to the stage, performing covers of alternative hits such as Sex On Fire and Use Somebody by Kings of Leon and Muse’s Starlight. After that it was another alternative act that took the stage: popular local alternative band The Great Spy Experiment.
Frontman Saiful Idris has hardly played to a crowd this young before. “But I’m glad to do it for the kids,” he said. When asked if they play football, each member of the band gave the same answer, “I used to.”
Bassist Khairyl Hashim tapped his stomach. “And then, we got fat.”
While Khairyl was obviously exaggerating, one person who looks slightly less lean than he used to was the true star of the day: Fandi Ahmad. Arguably the best striker to don the red of Singapore, Fandi led a team of 5 local footballing legends, including former national goalkeeper David Lee and current national captain Indra Shadan, against one of the youth teams for an exhibition game.
While he did appear bulkier than usual, Fandi showed that he has not lost his touch, scoring two goals and dazzling the crowd with some sublime dribbling. Off the ball, he kept horsing around with the referee and his teammate, reminding us that not only was Fandi a clinical striker, he was also a great showman and entertainer.
“During my day, we never had a chance like this,” Fandi said of the Nike Cup. He later praised Nike’s efforts in helping shape the future generation of Singaporean footballers. “The trip to Brazil is a rare chance for the winning team to learn from one of the world’s best in football and I think it’s great that Nike is giving the kids in Singapore such wonderful opportunities to improve their game.”
The eventual winners for the junior category were the NHS Dudes, who won $8000 worth of Nike products, and a training session with the Singapore national team. The senior category winners, El Nino Delfiro, also won $8000 worth of Nike products.
Senior Champions – El Nino Del Firo
But they’ve got it better: they will spend 5 days in Brazil. During these 5 days, they will get to undergo an exclusive training session organized by the Brazilian Football Federation. The training session will be held at the state-of-the-art Granja Comary, where the Brazilian national team trains.
“We still can’t believe that we’re really going to Brazil!” exclaimed El Nino Delfiro captain Afiq Yahya, 19, ecstatically.
Now the picture seems less like a football commercial, and more of a dream-come-true scene in a movie. What cannot be refuted, however, is that Afiq and his friends deserve their trip to the footballing Mecca that is Brazil. With every manifestation of joga bonito they displayed, they were inching closer and closer to their prize. And that is how you write the future.