He was once considered the Republic's most exciting prospect.
A fleet-footed attacker, Hanafi Akbar was a major part of the much-vaunted Youth Olympic Games (YOG) team that clinched bronze here in 2010.
Dubbed the "Gelek Prince" for his dribbling skills, he piqued the interest of the Tottenham Hotspur Academy and youth coaches from Italian club Juventus soon after.
But, in the past year or so, the 18-year-old's development has not gone to plan.
Growing pains and part-time work distracted him from football. He began to skip training with the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-18 team earlier this year and eventually quit the team in August.
A few coaches wrote him off at the time, labelling him a "rebel" and too ill-disciplined to succeed.
All that is behind Hanafi now, as S-League club Balestier Khalsa have offered him a new lease of life.
Hanafi signed a two-year deal with the Toa Payoh-based club Tuesday, announcing his return to the game after more than three months of not kicking a ball.
Balestier chairman S Thavaneson did not conceal his excitement about his new young signing, who will join the club's Prime League ranks.
"You will certainly see him make appearances in the S-League next year," said the 65-year-old.