Game Changers: Harman digs into grassroots football

352

HARMAN Ali was close to tears when nine-year-old daughter, Nur Nadzirah, who got hooked into football, returned home with a surprise feedback from her coach.

“One of my most treasured moments was when Nadzirah returned from training and told me: ‘Dad, my coach said I’ve improved in my passing.” That line alone melted my heart and I gave her an instant hug.”

In a nutshell, Harman’s heart and head are always on the ground, feeling the green, green grass of home with the heartlander kids, including his two football-adoring kids.

He says: “I firmly believe grassroots football is the most important time for a kid to learn, via the fun way, and I think the longer they play grassroots football, the better they’ll develop.”

Harman is President of GFA Victoria Football Club, a National Football League Second Division club, and one of the modern-day dads who also seriously believe that football, as a “universal language, further bonds family relationship”.

As a rare entity, he was a dare-devil motorcycle rider during his teens and even raced at the Asia Road Racing Championship at Pasir Gudang in Johor and Shah Alam in Selangor.

The thrills and spills on the track, full of highly-competitive action, always had his adrenalin pumping until his wife, Suzanah Ahmad, told him in 2000 to call it quits and Harman returned back to his first love: Football.

“No regrets,” he recalls. “My family supported me and I even got my son and daughter into football and I later got an AFC ‘B’ Licence coaching badge, too, which turned out to be another emotional coaster-ride for me in the field of play.”

He says: “Either you hate it, love it or you delay it. I’ve never regretted the day I quit motorcycle racing and got back to the field, where the family joins me, especially every weekend.”

Harman is also over the moon that his eldest son, Nazhiim, plays for the National Football Academy (NFA) Under 18 and is ranked as one of the most promising youngsters at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

BRAIN AND BRAWN

He’s a mixture of brain and brawn. Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Facilities Management from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, after doing a Diploma in Electronics and Communication at Singapore Polytechnic, he’s the Senior Account Manager for Facilities Management at Jones Lang Lasalle, a global real estate services firm.

He has over 15 years of hands-on experience in property and facilities management including business development and an expert in compliance, cost savings and quality control.

During his National Service (NS) stint, Harman, who is also a qualified diver, completed his reservist duty with the rank of Senior Staff Sergeant in the Singapore Police Force, where he specialised in training in the aspects of compliance and the statutory laws of Singapore.

His best playing days were in the 1990s with NFL Division Three club, PUB Recreation Club, where he was a striker and helped earned promotion in his first year. Getting the coaching badge with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) opened a new educational avenue as he now teaches, on weekends, the A-B-Cs of football at the Global Football Academy (GFA).

RESPECTS BILL NG

Harman believes in the longer-term football philosophies of Bill Ng, the Chairman of Hougang United, who is leading the team. He says: “I joined ‘Game Changers’ to be a FAS Council Member because there’s a real roar in this multi-talented team, of dedicated men and women who are sincere and transparent in bringing football to a higher platform.”

As a fun-loving football-fanatic 46-year-old father, he wants maximum focus on grassroots football as it is “about giving every child a chance to learn and develop football skills through organised football activities, matches, and coaching”.

He says: “Bill Ng’s team believes that the philosophy of grassroots football is that football is for everyone regardless of age, gender, religion, and ethnic or social background.  It’s thumbs-up for me as grassroots football promotes the spirit of fair play, learning, and development for all children.

Harman, who even did a Singapore Airlines’ stint as a cabin crew for five years (1994-1999), says as an endearing family-man, he knows how football can contribute to a child’s development. He adds: “It promotes a healthy lifestyle and fosters positive characteristics as they learn to embrace the spirit of fair play.

“I believe children are the future of football, and grassroots is the foundation of football giving all children the opportunity to play. Grassroots football supports the creation of the best environment for children to play football and to develop and nurture their skills.”

ATTACHMENT AT BAYERN MUNICH

Harman, who did a two-week attachment with German champion FC Bayern Munich as part of the youth development observation trip, says the breeding grounds for future footballers are just as important as club academies.

“At some stage the kids at grassroots level get to academies and I think that’s where the bigger problem is. As long as there is no shared objective set about by the FA, everyone has their own perception of development,” he says.  “I believe in football you need to make mistakes yourself and find solutions to make things right.”

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done, but let’s not forget how important grassroots football is.  This is why we’ve got to support this cause with the ‘Game Changers’.”

As reiterated earlier, Harman feels the green, green grass of home with the heartlander kids and wants thousands more youngsters from Tampines to Toa Payoh, Marsiling to Marine Parade and Bukit Batok to Bedok to learn the best values of the world’s No 1 sport.

He poignantly says: “I firmly believe grassroots football is the most important time for a kid to learn, via the fun way, and I think the longer they play grassroots football, the better they’ll develop.”

‘Game Changers’ is led by adoring businessman Bill Ng and the alternative team of 15 football-hearted personalities will be contesting the FAS elections on April 29 at the SportsHub.