The Lion City Sailors youth academy teams recently embarked on enriching overseas training camps. The Under-13 squad ventured to the Netherlands, while the Under-15 team journeyed to Spain, spanning from May 25th to June 9th. These trips, designed to push the young players out of their comfort zones and expose them to high-level football environments, yielded significant learnings and experiences that promise to enhance their future development.

However, the journey was not without its challenges. 

The U13 team, in particular, faced several hurdles during their time abroad. The cold weather in the Netherlands was a stark contrast to Singapore's tropical climate.

"Training sessions in the Netherlands were quite challenging as we had to adapt to the cold weather, which was a big change from Singapore's hot and sunny climate. It was sunny in the Netherlands, but still cold," shared Iman, a player from the U13 team.

Besides the weather, the young players also faced physically larger and more intense opponents, pushing their abilities and adaptability to the limit. 

Head Coach Ashraf Bin Ariffin underscored the significance of these challenges in the players' development. "Our main objective was to push them out of their comfort zone and expose them to a new environment," he emphasised.

Despite the harsh weather conditions and the demanding physicality, Ashraf highlighted the players' resilience and quality on the field, showcasing their capability to compete at a higher level. "Overall, our players performed admirably, demonstrating their skill and scoring goals.”

Iman, reflecting on the experience, echoed Ashraf’s sentiments, noting significant personal growth and team cohesion. "I certainly noticed improvements to my game as the training camp helped me learn to play faster and harder due to the big size difference," said Iman. The rigorous challenges abroad also fostered stronger bonds within the team, as they learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Additionally, Iman found enrichment in the cultural facets of the trip. "I certainly enjoyed learning about how the city got its name and delving into its historical background," he added.

The U15 team's training camp in Spain presented its own set of challenges, primarily the higher intensity and smarter play of their opponents. "The weather made it really tough to catch my breath, and the level of play was much more intense compared to what I'm used to in Singapore," said Caleb, an U15 player. Furthermore, he highlighted the critical role of transitions in Spanish football, observing, "our opponents in Spain were very astute; they capitalised on every mistake we made. I learned that quick transition is crucial here, and we have to sprint back because they exploit attacking opportunities swiftly."

Reflecting on the team's performance, Head Coach Firdaus Kassim praised their resilience and competitive spirit. "We went toe-to-toe with them, providing stiff competition and challenges in every game. Our football was solid, displaying good defensive discipline and yielding positive outcomes," said Firdaus. Despite acknowledging areas for improvement, Firdaus expressed satisfaction with the players' remarkable performance that exceeded expectations.

The cultural immersion was a cherished aspect of the trip for Caleb, who delighted in sampling local cuisine and exploring the city through guided tours.  "During the city tour, we visited a restaurant that served tapas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it," he recalled fondly. Beyond savouring new flavours, the trip also fostered strong camaraderie within the team. "Spending so much time together allowed us to deepen our bonds and really get to know each other. We shared many unforgettable moments during these two weeks," said Caleb.

And both coaches shared a unified perspective on the significance of the trips.

"Stepping out of their comfort zones, away from their families, and performing at a higher level will undoubtedly impact their development," noted Coach Ashraf . 

Coach Firdaus echoed this sentiment, affirming, "each footballing experience moulds these young Sailors into the best players they can be. The more they are exposed to these high-level environments, the faster their learning curve will steepen."

He also noted that the lessons learned from these trips will be integrated into their regular training programmes in Singapore.

"The players have experienced firsthand the standards required to reach the pinnacle and their aspirations," Coach Firdaus explained, emphasising the meticulous care taken, even in their daily nutrition at the Atletico Players’ Residence. "At Sailors, we will consistently reinforce these values to our players," he concluded with determination.

Meanwhile, Iman eagerly anticipates bringing his newfound experience back to Singapore. 

"Following this journey, my personal goals for the upcoming season include integrating the lessons from the Netherlands into my game and challenging myself against opponents in Singapore.”