Cubs will get better and better: Jeffrey Lightfoot

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Singapore NFA U-16 captain Jeffrey Lightfoot. (Photo by Alan Lim)

Singapore National Football Academy under-16 captain Jeffrey Lightfoot says the Cubs will continue to "get better and better" after they clinched second place in the recent 23rd Canon Lion City Cup 2011.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Lightfoot felt that his teammates, who also won bronze in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games last August, played very well in the tournament.

"We played well to finish runners-up against the likes of Everton, Juventus and eventual winners CR Flamengo despite being dominated in the physique department," said the 15-year-old.

Lightfoot was ruled out of the tournament after tearing his calf muscle in a friendly against Tampines Rovers under-18s in May. Syazwan Radhi, his partner in defence, also did not feature in the tournament due to a foot injury.

This led to the Cubs reshuffling their entire backline for the Lion City Cup, which saw wing-backs Dhukhilan Jeevamani and Illyas Lee as centre-backs while midfielders Brandon Koh and Bryan Neubronner were deployed as full-backs.

Jeffrey felt that Dhukhilan did very well in leading the team. (Photo by Football Association of Singapore)

Lightfoot had special praise for stand-in skipper Dhukhilan, who he felt was "amazing" in leading the team throughout the tournament.

He said, "I was there in the changing room and he was motivating everybody. It's good that there are other leaders on the pitch other than myself so that everyone can command each other and I think we will progress better as a team."

Turning his attention to the under-15s, he praised them for handling themselves well in the tournament.

"They amazed the crowd with their fluid passing, attack, defence and teamwork. Everybody is very proud of them and hopefully they get the chance to do bigger and better things in the future," said the Victoria School student, who will be taking his O-levels this year.

When asked which under-15 player impressed him the most, Lightfoot singled out both centre-backs Sadik Said and R Aarvin for being very vocal and commanding in defence.

But he was quick to also compliment the rest of the team.

"The whole (under-15s) team played well, and that's the most important."

However, it seems unlikely that Lightfoot will be heading to English Premier League side Everton FC for a training stint.

It was reported that he could be on his way to Merseyside to train at the Everton youth academy later this year after an informal chat with officials at the Lion City Cup.

But the defender insists, with a tinge of disappointment, that the discussions were simply informal; nothing concrete has been agreed upon.

Fingers crossed, he is hoping that further discussions would be held between the Football Association of Singapore and Everton as such exposure will help in his football development.

His teammates Bryan Neubronner, Jonathan Tan and Firdaus Tohari have already been to European clubs in Croatia and Italy to hone their skills.

The future of Singapore football. (Photo by Football Association of Singapore)

Lightfoot was pleasantly surprised and honoured to be nominated in the Singapore 9 sports category. However, he believes it would not have been possible if not for his team.

"I really have to owe it to my team, because we share such strong bonds and I would definitely like to share this with them. They deserve it just as much as I do."

"This nomination will definitely motivate me to carry on training and working hard," he added.

Looking ahead, Lightfoot is hopeful that his team will be able to rise through the ranks together and move on to greater heights.

"We've been together since we were about 12 or 13 years old, so we've a strong unity and bonded together as a team. Hopefully we get to the Prime League or even the Young Lions (the Singapore under-23 squad) together because it will be great for us," he said.

"We usually hang out after training and even on weekends although we see each other almost everyday. We're like brothers."

Such strong team camaraderie, both on and off the pitch might just be the secret ingredient for this group of young footballers who hold the key for the future of Singapore football.

Jeffrey Lightfoot, Theresa Goh, Tao Li and Fandi Ahmad are the nominees in the sports category in the Singapore 9, a Yahoo! project to recognise nine Singaporeans who have really made a difference in the past year. Make your vote count here.