Ain’t no mountain high enough: A Singaporean heads to Switzerland

As he savoured a breakfast of croissant and coffee in a Milan cafe last month, Prince Jasper Emaviwe received a phone call he’d been anxiously waiting for.

Without warning, the tears began to flow. Next to him, his daughter Jennelle, 17, also started to cry.

Then came the pumped fists. And the audible cheers and claps. Fellow cafe patrons looked on in curiosity at the commotion.

I explained to them that I was not crazy but celebrating because my son was selected to play for a club side in Switzerland

- Prince Jasper Emaviwe

They thought the duo were crazy. But, one could hardly fault their euphoria.

“I explained to them that I was not crazy but celebrating because my son was selected to play for a club side in Switzerland,” said the 48-year-old, who works as a goalkeeping coach at International Soccer Academy (ISA).

Prince had just learned from Academy Junior Football coach Joe Keiser that Swiss second-tier side FC Chiasso were interested in signing his son Jordan, who plays for the NFL division 2 side.

The 16-year-old had just played in a friendly match with the team in Chiasso, a 45-minute train ride from Milan, two days before.

While details are yet to be finalised, Jordan could become the first Singaporean since V. Sundramoorthy to sign a first-team professional contract with a Swiss club. The current Lions coach played for FC Basel in the late 1980s.

Sundram played for FC Basel in the late 1980s

Little surprise then, when father and sister celebrated without a care in the world.

But there is a more heart-warming reason behind the tears.

Tragedy struck in February this year when Jordan’s mother Elaine Ong passed away after a three-year battle with throat cancer. The executive secretary, who is Singaporean-Chinese, would have turned 48 next month.

The American revealed that he was approached by her six months before she died, requesting him to help secure his son a professional contract

Alongside his father and sister, Elaine was an ever-present supporter of his fledgling football career, and was in charge of decisions involving Jordan’s football, said Prince.

It was her dream for Jordan to score such an opportunity, said coach Keiser. The American revealed that he was approached by her six months before she died, requesting him to help secure his son a professional contract.

 With his late wife’s wish coming true, Prince could not hold back his emotions.

“From day one she did not miss a single game. She told me not to worry and that our son was going to make it. She never gave up, she knew he had the potential to be something in football,” he said.

“It was a big loss, of course. But this contract...if she’s here, I bet she’d be very happy,” added Jordan.

Jordan’s mother Elaine Ong was a constant supporter of her son. Photo: Prince Jasper Emaviwe

Thirty seconds was all it took to pique the Swiss club’s interest in Jordan.

Along with three of his academy teammates, he was training at Serie D club ADSP Ciliverghe di Mazzano’s training base in Brescia for a two-week open trial last month. Courtesy of Keiser’s contacts, this was Jordan’s second footballing trip to Italy, having travelled to Milan last year.

Keiser’s old friend and colleague, who happened to be director-general of FC Chiasso, came down to take a look. Scouts from other clubs were allowed to observe from the sidelines.

Within 30 seconds of seeing Jordan he knew. ‘I want him in Switzerland, I want him there in January,’ he said.

- Joe Keiser

Jordan’s age and 1.89m, 81kg-frame stood out; it didn’t take long for him to be on the wish list.

“Within 30 seconds of seeing Jordan he knew. ‘I want him in Switzerland, I want him there in January,’ he said. So I said why don’t we do something this week,” said Keiser, who has decades of experience in youth coaching.

Five days later on Halloween (31 Oct), Jordan was donning the club’s blue and red stripes up in the southern Swiss Alps to play in the friendly.

It was unfamiliar territory all around. While he typically towers over his opponents in Singapore, he was average in Switzerland, even leaning towards the thin side compared to the bulkier Swiss players.

And like other European teams, FC Chiasso, who are sixth in the Swiss Challenge League, adopts a different style of play than that of Singapore teams.

Jordan in passing practice with FC Chiasso players and trialists

“When they get the ball they know what to do. They think a few steps ahead, and the pace was quicker,” said the St Patrick’s Secondary School student.

But unaffected by nerves and the five degrees Celsius temperature, Jordan, who started on the bench, acquitted himself well when he entered the fray with 12 minutes to go.

“I really wanted it badly. So I told myself if I try my best, I will get in because of the talent I have…I’m confident in my ability,” he said.

But if all goes well, Jordan will be jetting off to Switzerland in January on a potential five-year contract, when the European transfer window re-opens

“I did not feel intimidated, I just went on to do my thing.”

Playing in his favoured central midfield, his first touch of the ball came at eight minutes. With his family watching, he was tidy in possession and demonstrated strength on the ball.

The short cameo in Chiasso’s 7-0 win over fourth-tier outfit FC Morbio cemented the club’s desire to sign Jordan – not that it surprised the confident teenager one bit.

There was also interest from Italy and France, according to Keiser. But if all goes well, Jordan will be jetting off to Switzerland in January on a potential five-year contract, when the European transfer window re-opens.

[NEXT: The long road to Switzerland]