Saifullah Akbar may recognise quite a lot from his new surroundings as he arrives this week for a trial period at CD Tenerife.
The 19-year-old Singaporean midfielder jetted in to Spain on Tuesday afternoon and is now training with the club’s reserve team, CD Tenerife B. Indeed the youngster will have only one main objective on his mind and that is to secure a permanent professional deal with the club.
Should he ink a permanent professional deal with the Spanish side, Saifullah will be the first Singaporean representative in Spanish football.
Similarities in the football culture and everyday life between his potential new Canary Island home are widespread and should help Saifullah settle in as he embarks on a 10-day trial.
Like Singapore, football in the Canary Island was introduced by the British. Since then the sport has grown. Tenerife’s football club was formed in 1912 and has been very open to overseas influences, as to be expected from its geographic location and cosmopolitan way of life.
The club’s ‘Golden Age’ came during the 1990s, with two fifth-place finishes in LaLiga and semi-finals in both the UEFA Cup and the Copa Del Rey. Coaches of this era included Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Valdano, and German Jupp Heynckes who would later win the Champions League with both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The club’s record LaLiga goalscorer is ex-Spain international Juan Antonio Pizzi, who before coaching Saudi Arabia at the 2018 World Cup was LaLiga top scorer in 1995/96 with an impressive 31 goals.
Tenerife is no stranger to signing Asian players as they previously secured the services of signing of Japan international Gaku Shibasaki, who scored two goals in 16 LaLiga 1l2l3 games during six months at the club in 2017.
Hopes are high among Tenerife supporters ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, with all eyes on a young team chasing promotion back to LaLiga’s top flight backed by a diverse reserve side with which promising midfielder Saifullah is angling for a permanent deal.