Young Singaporeans Stretching Wings with White Swans

Danial (centre right) and Tan (centre left) will be going to Japan for nine days thanks to Albirex Niigata (Singapore).

Muhammad Danial and Tan Yu Hen from the Yuhua Albirex Football Academy (YAFA) will be going on a training tour to Niigata from 2nd to 10th September. Thanks to the Albirex Sports Development Fund (ASDF), the duo will get to train three times with the Albirex Niigata youth team, as well as experience the local sports and community culture in Niigata.

They will be accompanied by three Albirex Niigata (Singapore) staff, including chief operating officer Shu Namba, who will serve as chauffeur, chaperone, and translator during the trip. "I will help them to translate the menu at the restaurants," Namba chuckled when asked later about his responsibilities for the trip.

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) general manager Koh Mui Tee reassured the packed press conference. "We will make sure that the boys are well taken care of."

Danial, 13, has been with YAFA since 2015. He was "very, very excited" to have been selected for the trip, and looked forward to sharing some Singaporean culture with his Japanese peers while in Japan. Danial started out as a forward, but usually plays in centre midfield. The Swiss Cottage player hopes to work on ball control.

Tan, 13, for his part, wanted to work on stamina. "If (I had to) play a 90-minute game, I would not be fit enough," said the striker. Tan, a part of the Hong Kah Secondary football CCA, had just joined the academy in early 2017, and was shocked to hear that he was going on the trip. "I did not expect to be (selected)," he said.

Besides football and running training, Danial and Tan will watch Albirex Niigata host Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J-League on 9th September, as well as a baseball match against the Musashi Heat Bears. In between, they will be given the chance to take part in fruit and rice harvesting and attend summer festivals.

"Over the years, the relationship between Albirex and Yuhua Community Sports Club (CSC) has grown," said Lim Chock Sing, the chairman of Yuhua CSC. Besides sending Tan and Danial on this training tour, Lim pointed out that since YAFA began in 2014, it has been conducting affordable football training sessions for the Yuhua community, with all equipment provided even for low-income families. The academy holds a training programme over 32 Sundays for just 50 dollars.

"Every year, we have over a hundred children. This year, we have 132 children in YAFA. These children are inspired by Albirex," Lim added. Visits from the senior S.League team and the Albirex Niigata youth team to the training sessions provided this inspiration, as did the chance to escort the S.League players out at home matches.

Lim was optimistic that the collaboration with Albirex would continue to grow. "We hope to take our relationship further, connect with the community, and also engage Yuhua residents."