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Moulding the next generation of football talents, on and off the pitch

In football, the primary role of a coach is to get the best out of the players and develop them into better versions of themselves. But ever so often, a coach does not only inspire his charges to succeed in football on the pitch, but also to pursue a football career off it.

Nasaruddin Jalil, a former Singapore international and Singapore Premier League club Balestier Khalsa FC stalwart, is one such coach. The 58-year-old former Singapore international left such a lasting impression on his former player Han Yiguang that the 38-year-old former Balestier Khlasa midfielder decided to also take on coaching.

Nasaruddin Jalil (Centre), Han Yiguang (Left) and Amir Haziq (Right) from the School Football Academy programme. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Coach Han went on to coach several youth teams, and in 2013, was the coach of Woodlands Wellington FC’s Under-14 team. Like his mentor Nasaruddin, coach Han’s demeanour and approach to training left such a positive impact on his charges that one of the young players, Amir Haziq, decided to also pursue a career as a coach.

Incidentally, now all three are in the School Football Academy programme, an initiative under Unleash The Roar! to raise the level of football in Singapore schools.

Nasaruddin Jalil (Left) gets to work together again with Han Yiguang (Right) as they are now under the same national football programme. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Nasaruddin is the head coach of Montfort Secondary School, Han is the head coach of Bendemeer Secondary School while Amir is the assistant coach of Sengkang Secondary School.

The unique coaching trio's roots started with Nasaruddin.

His career as a professional footballer took him to the highest levels of local football and eventually played for Singapore in the Malaysia Cup. However, his passion for the sport extended far beyond that of a player. As soon as his playing days were over, he dedicated his craft to coaching, attending coaching courses to stay updated with the latest developments in football. He attained the Asian Football Confederation Pro Coaching License, a testament to his commitment to developing the next generation of talents.

Said Nasaruddin: "For me, being a coach isn't just about football. Through football and building characteristics like discipline and resilience, we are also teaching the footballers life skills and values."

Coach Nasaruddin Jalil (1st row, 4th from the right) was training Han Yiguang (2nd row, 5th from the right) who was then 23 years old under Balestier Khalsa Football Club for Singapore Premier League in 2008. Photo provided by Han Yiguang.

In 2008, Coach Nasaruddin Jalil (highlighted in red on the left) led the Balestier Khalsa Football Club to achieve 2nd runners-up in the AVAYA-J&J League Cup Final with Han Yiguang (highlighted in red on the right) as a midfielder. Photo provided by Han Yiguang.

While the Head of Youth at Balestier Khalsa from 2007 to 2010, he had the privilege of coaching Han, whom Nasaruddin described as "dedicated, hardworking, and always ready to give his fullest when his service is required".

Nasaruddin added Han is an exceptional student of the game and he is honoured to be working with him to raise Singapore's football standards.

Amir Haziq (Left) is thankful to work with Han Yiguang (Right) again to nurture the next generation of young talents under the School Football Academy programme. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Said Han of his former coach: "He’s a very knowledgeable and very kind coach and he’s not only a coach but he also gives us advice in life. If we face any problems he will always be there to help and advise."

This holistic approach to training is one of the reasons that prompted Han to follow in Nasaruddin's footsteps.

He said: "I am very happy that we are in the School Football Academy together as I respect him a lot. We worked together as Centre of Excellence coaches at Balestier and now we are back together again at SFA, it brings back good memories of working together.”

Han Yiguang was a Centre of Excellence coach when he was coaching Woodlands Wellington U14 where Amir Haziq (1st row, 2nd from the left) was playing as the Centre Midfielder. Photo provided by Han Yiguang.

Amir spent one year with Han at Woodlands Wellington FC Under-14. As a fellow SFA coach, Amir shared that he is happy to be in this positive environment, surrounded by good coaches that will make him a better teacher of the game.

Like all footballers, Amir's initial dream was to play professionally.

"But when I was 17, I thought I wasn't the best player compared to my teammates and I wouldn't make it to the pro level," he said. "Hence, I started coaching early at the age of 18 and I believe that it has given me a head start compared to others out there."

Amir Haziq (Left) is thankful to Han Yiguang (Right) who is there whenever he requires advice. Photo by Ng Chong Meng.

It was Coach Han who persuaded Amir to consider a role in the SFA programme.

Said Amir: "He (coach Han) told me to come in the right environment to coach and SFA is a good environment for me to learn and grow as a coach. I've never regretted since joining SFA."

Similar to the training philosophies of Han and Nasaruddin, Amir values hard work and dedication as the main values he tries to impart to his team - “hard work and dedication beat talent”.

These two pillars are the training foundation of all three coaches.

The impact Coach Nasaruddin has on players like Han and Amir, and his commitment to shaping future players make him an inspiration for aspiring coaches everywhere.

Story by Ng Chrong Meng

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