The Singapore Cerebral Palsy (CP) football team will be making its debut in the 7th ASEAN Para Games this month after the sport was included for the first time.
Having been in charge of the team for the last four years, coach Mohamed Zainudeen hopes that the side's participation in the regional tournament for disabled athletes will help raise the profile of CP football in Singapore.
"We hope to raise more awareness about CP football," he told Goal Singapore on Friday.
"We don’t have a pool [of talent to draw from] like other countries and we couldn't find another CP team to play against during our preparations. We only have 12 boys currently, and all of them are going to Myanmar."
Zainudeen also explained that the teams from countries like Thailand and Myanmar usually come from a single home and will have played together for a long time, unlike the situation here where his boys train only once a week.
However, he is confident that his team have prepared well for the tournament, having finished third in the Dream Asia tournament in UAE in 2012 and also gained international experience in an Austria event last year.
"We are not sure who we will face, we will only know after the team managers' meeting over there... we will go out there, work hard and do our best," Zainudeen asserted.
The format of the Para Games football will be seven-a-side, with a limit on the number of players from each disabled classification in the pitch and a team can have players from various classifications.
Zainudeen explained that the rule was to prevent any side from fielding a team comprised solely from one classification. He also noted that the boys who went to UAE had already undergone a round of classification by the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) there.
Coach "Zai" also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to all those who have helped the team.
"Many thanks to all those who have supported us for the past four years," he said.
The Singapore CP team will depart for Naypyidaw on Saturday night and begin their campaign on Wednesday, January 15. Goal Singapore wishes them and the rest of Team Singapore's athletes all the best!
CP team: Gabriel Ngian Hai Wan, Harun Rahamad, Muhammad Nizam Rahman, Muhammad Firdaus Noor, Peter Kam, Muhammad Shahidil Rastam, Suhaimi Sudar, Hitesh G. Ramchandani, Muhammad Shafiq Ariff, Balasubramaniam s/so Annamalai, Khairul Anwar Kasmani, Muhammad Mubarak Rastam.