By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
Muhammad Faris bin Ramli (Singapore), Rahmat Che Hashim (Malaysia), Evan Dimas (Indonesia), and Napapon Sripratheep (Thailand) were crowned as the SE Asia winners for Nike's global talent spotting event on Tuesday night in Jarkarta.
Here are 10 thoughts to take-away from this year's competition in SE Asia ahead of the Global Finals in Barcelona.
- Malaysian teenager Mohd. Raphi will be one to watch for the future. The athletic Raphi was so impressive at ‘The Chance' Malaysia Finals that Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee (Head Coach of ‘The Chance' Malaysia) offered him a trial - effectively ending his participation with ‘The Chance'. Ong confirmed to me on Tuesday that Raphi will be registered for the S.League in the near future.
- One door closes, another door opens. Mohd Raphi's decision to quit ‘The Chance' allowed Rahmat Che Hashim to come in and take his place as one of the five country winners from Malaysia. Rahmat would go on to achieve success at the Regional Finals and will take his place in Barcelona as part of the top 100 players from 55 countries in this year's Global Finals.
- Rahmat's story is heart-warming. The 24-year-old Malaysian was ready to give up on football after early eliminations from ‘The Chance' in recent years. He caught a break this year when he was called-up to Regional Finals because of Mohd Raphi's withdrawal, and then showed plenty of spirit and skills to earn a spot in the Global Finals. When it was announced that he was one of the four SE Asia winners in Jakarta, he shed real tears of joy and cried some more while talking to me about the support his parents had given him to allow him to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer. Touching.
- On the flip side, Malaysia hopeful Carlos Goonting was inconsolable when he found out that his journey with ‘The Chance' had ended on Tuesday night at the Regional Finals. The 19-year-old showed a lot of heart and determination but in the end failed to nail down one of the four spots allocated for SE Asia at the Global Finals. I spoke to one of the coaches from the judging panel at the airport - on my way back to Singapore - and he felt that while the coaches were right not to send Carlos into the next round of the competition, he thinks the youngster does have a future in professional football. Carlos, if you're reading this remember when you fall, get back up. It only matters how you finish.
- Nike's Vapor Strobe Eyewear is very cool.
- There was plenty of inspiration around at the Regional Finals. On Day One, Thai legend Therdsak Chaiman delivered words of advice at the opening dinner while Indonesian starlet Syamsir Allam, who currently plays at Belgian side C.S. Vise, also pitched in with some pearls of wisdom.
- Not so professional? Nike ‘The Chance' is supposed to be a talent spotting competition aimed at unearthing the best young amateur talent so it was a surprise to see Nike allow players with professional experience to take part in the region. Personally, I understand why they have been a bit more flexible with this. In Singapore, a significant portion of the country's brightest young talent often find their football career stall shortly after signing their first professional contract because of National Service commitments. Should they not get the chance to revive their career just because they signed professional papers when they were in their teens? However, I also get how some people would look at this stance as Nike undermining the point of the competition. From what I understand the only professional players who were allowed to compete were the ones who, obviously, fit the competition's age bracket and who did not have an 'A' cap or senior national team game under their belt.
- Thumbs up for the recorded fan soundtrack played during the final match of the Regional Finals on Tuesday. Some might have found it gimmicky but at least it added some atmosphere to the match and gave the boys the experience and pressure of playing in front of a ‘vociferous crowd'.
- The best players in the world in any sport all have ‘swag'. At times it was a little too nice between the players at the Regional Finals. I would have loved to seen a more competitive spirit break out.
- Special mention goes out to the ‘OrangeMan' from Malaysian PayTV company Astro who played alongside me in the media session. He scored a sublime hat-trick to help our side to victory in a friendly run-out between the media.
'The Chance' is Nike Football's global competition seeking out the next wave of hungry young footballers.
Nike scouts are on the hunt in more than 50 countries to find 100 potential champions to battle it out at the Global Final in Barcelona.
You can read more stories on 'The Chance' by clicking on the links below.