By Teng Kiat
If you told Al-Qaasimy Rahman a few years ago that he will have the opportunity to share the pitch with the likes of Patrice Evra, Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba, he would not have believed you.
But the 22-year-old defender will get the chance to do just that this Saturday, having made the Singapore Selection squad that will face Italian champions Juventus in the first football match to be held at the new National Stadium.
It is the latest feather in the cap for the Courts Young Lions captain, who has enjoyed a somewhat meteoric rise in his career this season. While Al-Qaasimy has always been involved at various national age-group set-ups, he has found himself being moved a level up this year.
The 1.76m player, who plays primarily as a right-back, joined a training trip to Austria earlier this year as part of the senior national side instead of the Under-23s, who went along as well - Al-Qaasimy’s first serious commitment at senior level, and recognition of his progress.
“I'm really thankful and grateful for the opportunity that I got called up to the senior squad,” he told Yahoo Singapore on Thursday after Selection training. “At least I know all the hard work I do [was validated]; it was all honest hard work, so to be in the national squad with all the other senior players, it’s a golden opportunity [to learn from them] before they retire in future.”
Only Iqbal Hussain, 21, is younger than Al-Qaasimy in the Selection team and both are the only two uncapped players at senior level. While the former has made a few official Lions squads, Al-Qaasimy has only trained with the team on a few occasions. But the latter, who is expected to star in the upcoming Asian Games, has boldly targeted a place at Singapore’s next major international tournament.
“Definitely,” he asserted. “I mean, after all the opportunities I’ve got from Austria to Bahrain and also the Juventus game, I'm challenging myself to actually be in the Suzuki Cup squad and also challenge for a first-eleven place.”
While Al-Qaasimy admits to feeling some pressure as “everyone expects the best” of him, he is not short on confidence either.
“Definitely aggression and bravery,” was his response when asked what he would offer to the team. “I don’t come to waste any tackles, no matter who you are and how big you are; I’ll just go in for the tackles and make sure I win the 50-50 ball. Also, the overlapping runs; I can provide to the team tireless running up and down and I’ll always give my best for the 90 minutes.”
His coach at club level, Aide Iskandar, believes the defender has progressed well after almost five years at the Young Lions and has the ability to play for Singapore.
“He has the traits and great ability [to perform the role of] the modern full-back,” he noted. “This year, I think he is much more focused because he has completed his National Service. He has showed great performances and that’s the reason why he’s been included in several squads.
“There’s still a long way [to go] for him, but I think he has the potential to go all the way to the national team… he should continue [to progress] and work hard.”
Working hard is exactly what Al-Qaasimy is planning to do, with the Juventus match and Incheon providing a platform for him to stake his claim.
“It’s actually an opportunity for me to show everyone - the coaches, the management staff and even the fans what I am capable of and the abilities I have, so I am not going to put this to waste,” he asserted.