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Nur Adam

How a plastic bottle sparked a football dream - He couldn’t afford a real football, so he made do with a plastic bottle. Today Adam is a SPL champion.

Adam, a final-year Republic Polytechnic sports management student, has reaped the rewards of his perseverance and commitment. He earned his national call up and got first senior cap in a friendly against Kyrgyzstan in November.

The crackle of a plastic bottle brings mixed emotions to Nur Adam Abdullah. On one hand, he has fond memories of his youth, when he and his primary schoolmates would kick the bottle around for hours.

"We had no money then to buy a football, so we improvised," said the 20-year-old, of his days growing up in Jurong West.

But on the other hand, Adam recalls a childhood in which his family struggled financially, often to the frustration of a boy who had big ambitions.

“I struggled in terms of money as my family, financially, was not that stable back then,” recalled Adam, the eldest of four children. “When I first picked up football as a CCA, I didn't even have a pair of football boots as we couldn't afford one.”

He could only attend football training sessions with school shoes and suffered the embarrassment of attending classes at Shuqun Primary School with dirty shoes whenever it rained.

Said the defender: “I remembered going to school with dirty shoes filled with mud every time it rained. So, you can imagine my joy when I got a pair of real football boots! It was an adidas F50.”

The boot, a hard-earned present from his family, would put him on a track that would see him become a Singapore Premier League (SPL) winner with the Lion City Sailors and winner of the Young Player of the Year award.

A young Adam with his first pair of football boots that his family saved hard to buy for. Photo: Nur Adam Abdullah

While money may have been scarce, one thing Adam had an abundance of is footballing talent.

He worked his way up from school football, honed his skills at several academies before catching the eye of the coaches from the Singapore Sports School who saw the potential in him and sent him to Japan for a training stint with J2 League club Omiya Ardija in 2017.

He impressed coaches at the club enough for him to be invited to play for Omiya in an international tournament in the Netherlands.

He said: “I was just a guest, but they made me feel like one of their own, and I felt like I belonged to a J.League team. In the end, I played in seven of their nine games against clubs from other countries and helped them finish second.

"That experience made me hungrier for more high-level international action.”

But it wasn't all smooth sailing for Adam.

In 2015, a broken leg threatened to derail his footballing career before it even started. And in 2018, he had to contend with poor form before bouncing back and winning The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award that year.

And now, the final-year Republic Polytechnic sports management student has again reaped the rewards of his perseverance and commitment. For playing a key role in helping the Lion City Sailors win the Singapore Premier League, Adam was named the Young Player of the Year at the Football Association of Singapore Awards Night.

His eye-catching performances also earned him a call up to the Singapore Under-22 squad for the AFC Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. He earned his first senior cap for the National team when he came off the bench in Singapore’s friendly against Kyrgyz Republic earlier this month and is also in the Lion’s provisional squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup in December.

"It has been a long and tough journey, but I'm heartened to know that hard work pays off. Today, I’m able to support myself and my grandmother by giving her a monthly allowance,” said Adam. “It has always been my dream to become a professional footballer and play for my country at the highest level, and I have kept working to make my dreams a reality.

"I hope this is just the beginning of more good things to come.”

By Calvin Koh

November 16, 2021

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