YOUNG Lions’ rising star Jasper Chan has played a big part in his team’s encouraging performance in the NTUC Income-Yeo’s S-League 2008.
In his nine games — including an RHB Singapore Cup tie — the 19-year-old goalkeeper has kept four clean sheets, conceding nine goals.
When Chan injured his hand last month, he was clearly missed as the Young Lions let in nine goals in four games.
News that the 1.83m-tall lad might sit out his side’s S-League clash tonight will probably be welcomed by Sengkang Punggol, who are still searching for their first league win.
“My shoulder is giving me a bit of trouble at the moment and I’m not really able to dive properly until it comes good again,” Chan said yesterday.
Chan’s rise from S-League rookie to major player has been a steep one.
The keeper joined the Young Lions only last season and became their starting keeper within two months.
That was about when national goalkeeping coach Lee Bee Seng, who played for Singapore in the 1970s, made the bold prediction that “it is only a matter of time before (Chan) starts challenging for a place in the national team”.
Last September, at the age of 18, he was called up to the national squad.
“I was a little surprised to be selected,” recalled Chan, who is an only child.
“My dad, Chan Thye Oh, was very proud when he heard the news.”
Though he has yet to win his first cap, with Lionel Lewis still Singapore’s undisputed No 1, Lions’ coach Radojko Avramovic has not dropped Chan from the squad since.
Right now, he’s just happy to be a part of the Lions’ 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
With Uzbekistan due here for a third-round, Group 4 tie with Singapore on June 2, Chan revealed that the mood in the national team is upbeat.
“Many of the players from the top clubs, Home United and SAFFC, are in form, like Indra (Sahdan) for instance,” he said.
“Confidence among the players is high and I feel we have a fighting chance of beating Uzbekistan, even though they have some top players who mostly play in Europe.”
Chan, who lists former United great Peter Schmeichel and Juventus custodian Gianluigi Buffon as his heroes, never set out to be a goalkeeper.
“I was a striker until Primary 6,” he told Today. “I became a goalkeeper when the competition for outfield players got a bit hot.
“I decided if I was to make the school team I’d better try out as a keeper.”
Chan is currently studying general business studies at Temasek Polytechnic and will complete his course in 2011.
Success on the pitch hasn’t gone to his head, thanks in large part to his friends.
“Most of my primary and secondary school friends, who live near me in Hougang, tease me about being selected for the national squad. But, no, I don’t have female ‘groupies’ hanging around me or anything like that,” he chuckled.
“It’s nice to be recognised by fans, but that’s about as far as it goes.”