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Red hot chilli padi

July 27, 2011 - 11:09pm

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TNP PICTURE: Choo Chwee Hua

Singapore Sports School's pint-sized forward Muhaimin has big dreams

ASK Muhaimin Suhaimi what his long-term goal is, and his answer might catch you a little off-guard.

"I want to be at least five centimetres taller," grinned the Singapore Sports School (SSP) footballer, who currently stands at 1.65m.

"If I'm at least 1.7m tall, then it's not so bad. World-class players like Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez are also about that height.

"But if not, I think my morale will go down... I might even consider quitting football."

The forward, who shot to prominence while playing for the Singapore Cubs at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) last year, was even nicknamed "Chilli Padi" then by The New Paper because of his slight physique.

When asked about the nickname, Muhaimin chuckled and said: "That also brought my morale down – because a Chilli Padi is so small, no one will take it seriously!"

And although the 16-year-old still has plenty of time on his side, he is worried he might not be able to shoot up to a more imposing height.

"My dad used to be a jockey, so he's also very small," said Muhaimin, burying his face in his hands.

"If my dad is already so short, surely his son will end up the same way!"

Muhaimin's obsession with his height is no Napoleon Complex.

Spur

But it does spur him to outdo bigger and stronger opponents.

Former national coach Jita Singh once compared him to Malaysia Cup legend Malek Awab because Muhaimin "makes up for his small size with courage, skill and fighting spirit".

Shasi Kumar, who coached Muhaimin when he was part of the squad that played in the Saitama Under-12 tournament in 2008, added: “Even then, he was the smallest player there, but he was one of the best we had technically, and the coaches knew he could go far.

"If you're that small, you need a lot of heart to play against the big boys. And that's what he has."

Muhaimin also carries that determination into the classroom.

His teacher and mentor Thomas Tan said: "He is a very determined student, and although he is pretty weak in English, he puts in the extra effort to improve."

Muhaimin's head coach at SSP, Abdullah Noor, said that he found it a joy to guide the player because of his eagerness to learn.

"The best thing about him is that he listens," said Noor, a former Singapore international striker.

"He may be a bit kepala batu (stubborn in Malay) at times, but he always wants to learn, and after training or games, he always asks me why I instructed him to do certainthings."

Muhaimin also brought a smile to his coach's face when he fired the first goal in SSP's 4-1 win over Jurongville Secondary School in the final of the B Division boys football tournament on Tuesday.

That strike – an opportunistic finish from inside the box after just three minutes – was so clinical it had his 50-year-old coach gleefully re-enacting the goal for this reporter.

According to Noor, Muhaimin has also been a key part of the SSP team that swept aside all comers in the north zone and national tournaments, playing as a second striker.

"I switched him from the main striker to a second striker this year, and he has been doing very well for the team," said the coach.

"His quickness has really helped the team and he has combined really well with our top-scorer Hazim (Faiz Hassan)."

Noor also revealed to The New Paper that Muhaimin and Hazim both caught the eye of Liverpool legends Phil Thompson and Ian Rush, when the Reds were in town for a training stint recently.

Said Noor: "Both of them said that Hazim and Muhaimin had that striker's instinct, but they needed to work on their timing."

After all his heroics for the national youth team at the YOG and the Lion City Cup this year, it's perhaps a bit hard to believe Muhaimin only started playing the game seriously when he joined the Gan Eng Seng Primary football team when he was 10.

Prior to that, he was "just another kid" who played football with his friends at the void deck.

Plus, he had his heart set on being a singer.

"I love to sing and in Primary 2, I told myself I wanted to be a singer," said Muhaimin, with a laugh.

Likes to perform

"I like to perform too, and my last performance was during the Sports School's Korean Night two months ago."

So what song did he sing?

Pausing and looking down in embarrassment, he said: "Nobody, by the Wondergirls... But only because I had to sing a Korean song to fit the theme!"

Those karaoke dreams, however, are now but a distant memory, and Muhaimin said his footballing ambition is to play abroad, preferably in South Korea or Australia.

And if he does manage to grow that extra five centimetres in the next few years, then Muhaimin's new goal might just become a reality.

TRIVIA
Muhaimin's younger brother, Muhelmy, plays for the Singapore Under-15 team as a central midfielder.

FACTFILE
Name: Muhaimin Suhaimi
Age: 16
Height: 1.65m
Weight: 53kg
Family: Suhaimi Salleh, 40 (father, former jockey), Sarina Durimi, 37 (mother, housewife), Muhelmy Suhaimi, 15 (brother)
Sport: Football
Sporting achievements:
2008 – C Division champions
2010 – Bronze medallist at the Youth Olympic Games
2011 – Silver medallist at the Lion City Cup
2011 – B Division champions

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