Former PIP trainee Ateeq scores international football scholarship

Fadhil Yunus

DPMM FC under-16 midfielder Mohammad Ateeq Hishan bin Zainal Abidin became the first player from a local academy to be awarded the prestigious British International School Phuket (BISP) Cruizeiro Football Academy scholarship in Phuket, Thailand.

The talented youth, who spent seven years in Brunei and laced up for the DPMM FC under-16s in the national under-16 youth league, was accepted after impressing his coaches on the first day of his trial in January.

Mohammad Ateeq, an academy product of Projek Ikan Pusu (PIP) prior to his switch to DPMM FC under-16s, will be leaving for Phuket this Wednesday to embark a new chapter in his football journey and link up with international academy players.

“I found out about the scholarship last year when my dad brought it up. I was interested in it. I trialled for it in January and after the lockdown they contacted my dad and offered me a scholarship,” he told the Weekend Bulletin at the Jerudong Mini Stadium yesterday.

The youngster said the way BISP is run and its coaches attracted him to join the academy. His father Zainal Abidin described the BISP as a high performance school, which links with a renowned Brazilian academy Cruzeiro.

Mohammad Ateeq Hishan bin Zainal Abidin. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

Having embarked a long spell of his youth career in Brunei, he agreed that the move to Thailand will provide him the opportunity to further his development where he will go up against against players from different nationalities for playing spots.

“I think its natural at an early age you’re exposed to things like this (the scholarship). I look at it as an opportunity and the coaches there are really professional,” he said.

“There is always room for improvement no matter how good you are. It’s good that they’re always helping you improve and telling you what you need to improve on.”

Ateeq, who plays as a central midfielder, said that having the right mentality and attitude are paramount to go far in any football journey.

“If you don’t have the right mentality and attitude, you’ll never get where you want to go. You always have to work for it and you can’t expect for it to show up.

“Once you have the opportunity, you have to take it. You don’t take things for granted. Always work hard!”

Zainal Abidin said that Ateeq’s place in the academy was secured on the first day of the week-long training following observation from the professional coaches.

“During the week-long training, they agreed to take him on the first day. After the first training session, they called me,” his father said.

“The coaches are Brazilian under Cruzeiro. They even go to Bangkok to scout players.”

Ateeq was provided an assessment on the final day of training with the coaches outlining their plans on helping his progress.

“On the last day of the training, they called me again to wrap up their findings. As far as Ateeq is concerned, they have decided from the beginning that they want him.”

The former Projek Ikan Pusu trainee, who attended a Barcelona FC Academy during a training camp two years ago, was told that he has acquired a good understanding of football basics prior to his acceptance.

Zainal Abidin, who has always been a firm supporter of Ateeq’s football journey, also encouraged parents to support their children in their football endeavours.

“If you want to set your target to be a professional, you have to set a plan now where you want to go,” said Zainal, who called youth to carve a path where they could realise a bright future in football.

“You have to play all out, gain football knowledge and play all out. If you are good, people will look at you,” he added.

Success stories of BISP Cruzeiro Football Academy include continuing the players’ development through attending academies in Canada, the United States and Europe before playing for high-level clubs.