A 10-year-old’s soccer ability is turning talent scouts’ heads in England, writes Joanna Davies.
Sarpreet Singh’s bedroom is covered in Chelsea football gear. From the bedspread to the flags on the walls, there is no doubt which team the 10-year-old dreams of playing for. But while he’s a bit young right now, with the way he’s training, he could make it to the English Premier League one day.
“One day I want to play for England, too,” he says.
He trains five days a week with Wynton Rufer’s soccer academy and with Onehunga soccer club, as well as playing futsal – Brazilian-style indoor football.
Sarpreet has added to his trophy collection by winning the most valuable player award at the Australian National Futsal Championships last month, representing Auckland with children a year older than him.
“Futsal’s a lot faster than outdoor soccer, but the best bit is scoring goals,” says Sarpreet.
“There were about 12 teams playing in our age group, and I won the award out of 120 players.”
His mother, Sarbjit Singh, says Sarpreet has been kicking a ball since he was three years old.
“He has a natural ability for it. He plays other sports at school but he enjoys playing soccer the most.”
Sarpreet’s talent has drawn interest from talent scouts from as far away as Everton, one of Chelsea’s rivals in England’s top competition.
“They’ve asked us to send a video trial of Sarpreet playing,” says Mrs Singh. “But I’m not sure whether he would be playing here or overseas, and we want to keep him here with us until he’s a bit older.”
Sarpreet’s futsal coach, Leonardo Duval, says the boy will go far. “Sarpreet can do a lot of beautiful things with the ball. He plays very differently from the other kids his age.”
Mr Duval, who took the Auckland team to the Canberra tournament, says Sarpreet had not played futsal before.
“We had to teach him the different positions, but he learned them very quickly and playing has added to his soccer skills.”
He says he was not surprised when Sarpreet won the award.
“When I first saw him play I could see that he had more skills than most of the kids his age. He is a really nice kid and he has a lot of heart.
“He loves playing soccer and … he always wants to learn more.”
Futsal is an indoor variation of soccer, created in 1930 in Brazil to be played inside YMCA clubs. Each team has five players including the goalkeeper, and a game lasts 40 minutes. It is played with a smaller ball than outdoor soccer and, as the playing area is smaller, there’s more emphasis on using tricks and creativity to pass the ball between players and to score goals.