Courts Young Lions striker Sherif El-Masri took on Paul Scholes, and lived to tell the tale...
Friday morning at Jalan Besar Stadium and around 40 young kids are scampering all around the pristine synthetic pitch, interspersed with Courts Young Lions players and one diminutive figure who's drawing all the attention. His familiar shock of ginger hair gives the game away from a few paces, as do the cameras trained on his every move.
Paul Scholes may be turning 40 years of age this year (which is why Courts have brought him down to celebrate their 40th anniversary), but there is still a spring in his step and a glint in his eye as he strides around the training pitch. Some of the young kids seem overawed by his presence, trying to keep a straight face as they exchange passes with the Manchester United legend but there are others still who delight in pinging hard balls back to him or attempting a cheeky back heel return.
For the most part, the man many consider to be the best midfielder of his generation is a pretty good sport. He mutters a few words of advice to some of his younger training mates and obliges anyone who approaches him for a quick photo or autograph. That's till Young Lions forward Sherif El-Masri joins the fray and decides it's time to have some fun with his idol.
As Scholes prepares to receive a pass, the young Canadian born striker takes tight marking to a whole new level by almost bear hugging his opponent. The former Englad star takes it in his stride and easily wriggles away before turning to face El-Masri. There is a split second as the two men size each other up and it's almost as if we've glimpsed the Scholes of old. The midfielder drops a shoulder, feints to his right and then slides the ball through El-Masri's legs as he goes to the left. It's all too much for the 24-year-old S.League striker as he's tied up in knots and can only laugh while the Ginger Prince glides past him.
"I've always been a fan of Scholes, it was crazy!" gushed a star struck El-Masri when FFT caught up with him after the training session. "It was all fun, but his touches are just crazy. And his technique! It's a different level and it was just wonderful playing against him."
What was on his mind when he grabbed Scholes during practice? Surely he would have expected to get shown up by a player with 66 England caps?
"I was laughing. I had a feeling it was coming but it was all good fun. I could have stopped it if I was being serious," El-Masri revealed. "I asked him about his shooting technique and all he said was that he's lucky every single time. I said, 'There's no way you can be lucky everytime!' but obviously it's a routine that's been perfected through hard work and practising the shot every day. That's basically what it comes down to, training every day."
Fans and Courts customers will have an opportunity to meet Paul Scholes personally during his autograph session on Saturday, 22 March 2014 at Courts Megastore in Tampines. All 200 passes for the 5.30pm event have been snapped up.