Vasileios Zikos Chua has just turned seventeen, and he has already played soccer professionally for one entire year for Geylang International in Singapore’s Premier League.
Since last year, the Greek-Singaporean teenager has also been the youngest player to ever play in the country’s top tier of soccer and is the third-youngest scorer in the history of Singapore‘s professional league.
Born to a Singaporean father and a Greek mother, Chua grew up in Kastoria, in northwestern Greece. His parents met when they were studying in the UK. What the young man remembers from his early youth was mostly playing soccer, tennis and going swimming.
“I used to come back to Singapore every summer to see my relatives, my grandparents,” he told CNA. “It was nice,” he adds.
Then his parents decided to move to Singapore. He was ten years old at the time, and he remembers crying over the move. “My heart was broken … All the friendships I forged, I thought it was going to be lost,” he said.
But once in Singapore, Chua adapted to his new home and he began to concentrate on soccer. He started out as a goalkeeper, but later became a forward. Today, at 1.84 cm (6 feet, 1 inch) tall, he is a striker with a bright future ahead of him. He has already played for Singapore’s Under 14 and Under 16 national teams.
The coach for Geylang International spotted the young lad’s talent and Chua soon was signed as a professional player. When he debuted for the team, he was only 16 years and 80 days old, breaking the record of captain Hariss Harun who played his first SPL game at 16 years and 110 days.
Speaking about his first goal, the young soccer player told CNA: “It’s something, growing up and wanting to be the professional player you dream of, and actually scoring in a league game. It meant the world to me.”
And that was only seven years after young Vasileios had been spending summers stomping grapes from his grandfather’s vineyard in Lake Orestiada, the Kastoria town known for its natural beauty.
Now that his ambition to become a professional soccer player has become a reality, Chua would like to continue to divide his time between the sport and his studies. Comparisons with Greece’s educational system are inevitable.
“The main difference was the education system: At primary school level in Greece, it was a lot more relaxed… In Greece, I was considered a pretty good student … But in Greece, everything was in Greek … especially for Science, all those terms were extremely different so that really put me down, it made me feel like it was going to be extremely hard,” he told CNA.
At 17, he is considering obtaining a higher education, at the same time as he pursues his soccer career.
“I want to have a fall-back plan, and studies could be something I am interested in the future,” he said. “Hopefully I will have a long football career and I have that to fall back on.
“Playing professionally is definitely plan A, but I do want to go to university and get a degree,” he explains.
Now a JC 1 student at Nanyang Junior College (NYJC), Chua continues to divide his time between studies and soccer. Along with the Geylang senior team, he plays for NYJC’s A Division team, where he has scored eight goals in three games this season.
What is certain is that Chua has a brilliant soccer career ahead of him. And here lies the main dilemma for him: Since he holds both a Singaporean and a Greek passport, he will eventually have to choose between the two countries.
“I feel Greek, I feel Singaporean,” Chua says. “I grew up in Greece, it’s definitely a big part of me. And I’ve represented Singapore for so many international competitions for the age groups, so I definitely feel a sense of pride when I play for Singapore. No matter what decision I make, it will be tough for me. Thinking of it scares me.”
The star player must make this major decision less than two years from now. Like Singapore, Greece has a nine-month mandatory military service for men when they turn nineteen.
“I’m really conflicted. I’m really not too sure what to choose. I’m nowhere near making a decision. For me, it would be really hard to give up (either) one of them,” the young man says.
Sources: CNA, Wikipedia