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Not just a dream, but a hope as They are just like one of us...

Eleven Singapore players will not only carry the hope of the nation, but also with one aim to prove a point.

The point to prove that, despite their physical disabilities, they are still able to enjoy the beautiful game like their able-bodied peers when they are set to take on teams from Iran, Australia and others that included the host nation, United Arab Emirates in the first Dream Asia Cerebral Palsy (CP) Tournament organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Coach Zai (wearing cap) briefs his team in one of the sessions
However, given the absence of sizable playing pool to select from, coach Zainudeen Hassan have to rely on the squad of players he have with him for the past three years for this inaugural continental-wide tournament.

Said Coach Zai, as he is commonly called, in an email interview with this blog:"There is a lack of publicity, general awareness for disability sports in Singapore." in highlighted some of the problems he facing.

"Every (football) association should have a department catered for the needs of disability football in helping to develop and running of it, which at the present moment FAS don't have one." he opined.

And because of the lack of resources as compared to other participating countries, coach Zai have to rely heavily on the goodwill support shown by various individuals and organizations for this cause.

"I am really grateful to my assistant coaches like Sanizal, Sheikh, Jasper, Leonard with sports trainer Azhar who all volunteer themselves for this effort which I felt without their involvement I would not have got it going.

"Along the way, I also appreciate of having Lionel Lewis, Aide Iskandar, Fandi Ahmad who came down to encourage and train with the boys."

"Not forgetting the kindness shown by various organizations and corporate entities in helping us in this cause like Vanda Sports, Hong Kah Secondary School with Stadio Futsal (a joint venture between Lions XII coach V Sundramoorthy and Marko Kraljevic) for using of their facilities at Khalsa Association and sponsoring of casual attires for the squad."

"Other organizations such as Playor also allow us to train on their Marina Country Club futsal courts and Lotto are in it as well to provide us with equipments we need, which I am very grateful for all these help rendered." said the certified AFC elite coaching instructor who also made some suggestions to the organizing committee in areas such as classification as accordance to each player's playing ability and disablement under the guidelines by Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreational Association or CPISRA for upcoming tournament.

Former Singapore skipper Fandi Ahmad (green jersey) shows his support to the team
Such recommendations are essential due to various concern as the result of the participating players' physical conditions, as coach Zai explained.

"For that being the reason thats why you can't have team training, and training sessions have to be break up into smaller groups where the assistant coaches will give attention and motivation to those weaker / stronger ( based on their level of disability ) players in order to raise the level of play in the team overall."

Being the first time for the squad to be involved in a continental tournament, the team would have to adapt themselves to some of competition's regulations due to the CPISRA classification.

Under the tournament's rules, a seven-a-side match is limited to C5, C6, C7, C8 players (according to the CPISRA grading), each team must have C5 and C6 players at all times.

Otherwise, the team that is unable to fulfill this criteria will have to field one player less and only maximum number of two players graded C8 are allowed on the field during the match that last for 30 minutes for each half.

The UAE-bound squad were presented during the Lions XII-Selangor match
It's no doubt that getting involved in this inaugural tournament is a milestone achieved for coach Zai and his team.

"So it's a BIG stage now, first time the players are going to be classified under CPISRA classification." he said and revealed that the team will undergo a mental skills training conducted by Ms Sanjana a former SSC mental skills coach next week.

"The team have been giving all out in all the activities since confirmation of the trip. They work very very hard and are willing to put their shoulders to the wheels.

"So let us not talk about results here, but allowing the players to see the world of CP football, allow them to express themselves and give their best." concluded the former Head of Youth Development of S.League club Balestier Khalsa.

(Pictures depicted in this entry are provided by Coach Zainudeen Hassan)


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