SINGAPORE - Two young local footballers will get the chance to go through a training stint at one of Europe's top clubs, if they impress at the Canon Lion City Cup next month.
A panel of judges - comprising the coaches of the six teams participating in the tournament, former Singapore defender R Sasikumar and selected members of the media - will cast their votes for one outstanding Under-15 and Under-16 player.
The two "Most Valuable Players" will then travel to Europe for a two-to-four week training stint at the academy of a top European club, courtesy of title sponsors Canon.
Sasikumar, who is the managing director of tournament organisers The Red Card, said: "We are talking to the European teams who are competing in the Lion City Cup (Holland's Ajax Amsterdam, Portugal's Porto and England's Manchester City) to finalise the details.
"The initiative is excellent because it helps the young players. We collectively brainstormed on an idea for this year's tournament and Canon loved this, because there's a continuation from last year."
At the end of last year's tournament, Canon donated a total of $13,000 to the National Football Academy, having earlier pledged to donate $1,000 for every goal scored by the two Singapore teams.
Said Andrew Koh, senior director and general manager of Canon's consumer imaging and information products division: "We think this year's initiative is better, because it's providing an opportunity which money cannot always buy.
"We hope this will motivate the boys to put in their best efforts and inspire them to bigger things in the future."
The challenge lying in wait for the Singapore starlets is a tough one, however.
City's Premier League triumph last Sunday means that the senior teams of all the four invited foreign sides (the other being Boca Juniors) are respective domestic champions.
Sasikumar, who is an Everton fan, said: "I was quietly praying for City to win, for the sake of our tournament!
"But the fact that they're all domestic champions is massive. It shows how serious we are in selecting the teams, ones that are top class and have real pedigree."
At the tournament draw held at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday morning, the Singapore Under-16 side - who finished third last year - were drawn alongside Ajax and Porto in Group A.
The Under-15s were drawn into Group B along with City and Boca Juniors.
Former Singapore skipper Nazri Nasir, whose Under-15 side are likely to be the youngest team in the Lion City Cup, said that he was excited by the prospect.
He said: "It's a good draw for us, because my boys will get the chance to play against two different styles - the tactical and physical play of City and the technical, passing game of Boca.
"It's great exposure for the boys and I just want them to express themselves against these teams and give a good show to the fans."
This article was first published in The New Paper.