By Marcus Chhan in Jakarta
The time had finally arrived for 20 aspiring footballers as Day 1 of the Regional Finals for Nike ‘The Chance' got underway in Jakarta, Indonesia.‘
The Chance' is a global talent spotting contest held by Nike in more than 50 countries, including four in SE Asia. Five boys each were selected from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for the Regional Finals and they made their way to the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta on Sunday.
Only four out of the 20 will advance to the next round - the Global Final in Barcelona.
Sunday's agenda was pretty straightforward and relaxed.
The boys checked in for a physical screening at around lunchtime and later they were called up in groups for a photo shoot which must have been a pretty out-of-the-world experience for most of them - remember some are as young as 16-years-old.
However, I think it's safe to say the biggest surprise for the 20 Regional Finalists must have come earlier in the day when they walked into their hotel room to find an array of gifts lined up for them on the bed.
Nike are calling it the ‘Player's Bag' but essentially what it is an assortment of things a professional footballer would need 72 hours (The Regional Finals end with a final match on Tuesday) before a big game.
Football gear aside, there were familiar objects like headphones which no doubt have become one of the must-haves for an athlete during their life spent on the road. But there was something else which really stood out from the pack: Personalised items from Nike athletes in the respective four markets.
For example, if you were one of the five winners from Indonesia, you got a book written by Bambang Pamungkas who is one of Indonesia's most celebrated strikers. For the Singaporean boys though, it was a much more modern gift: An iPod containing a personal voice message from Singapore international Hariss Harun.
"That was special," said Sim Li Ming, one of the five boys selected to represent Singapore at the Regional Finals of ‘The Chance'.
The 23-year-old centre-back actually knows Hariss from their playing days together in school.
"He told me to focus on my strong points which are my size and to use that to my advantage," Sim said.
Another player from the Singapore batch who Hariss is familiar with is Nurhazwan bin Norasikin. They came up through the National Football Academy together.
"He told me that he remembers me," Nurhazwan said.
Nurhazwan is actually pretty fortunate to be in Jakarta right now. He was an emergency call-up to the Regional Finals from Singapore because one of the original five Country Winners from the island-state (Randy Pay) pulled out of the competition citing "personal reasons".
"He [Hariss] told me that I was a good player and to do my best," Nurhazwan said.
"It was a great honour because Hariss Harun is a real star."
Also stored in the iPod were 10 of Harris's favourite songs including a bit of Adele, in case you were interested.
On Monday, the intensity level for the 20 participants will increase significantly. Training sessions have been scheduled for 8.00am local time.
You can read more stories by ESPNSTAR.com on ‘The Chance' by clicking on the links below.