Chasing the American dream in Singapore

Far away from the land of opportunities, two Americans chose to follow their heart and chase after their dreams and hopes in Lion City.

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One of Clay Silvas’ fondest childhood memories is a keepy-uppy contest with his cousin Diego Silvas, which lasted the best part of a summer day.

“We were like eight or nine,” Clay told FourFourTwo. “His dad gave us a bet to see how many juggles we could beat. I think he got about a hundred – we both got over a hundred, that was just our goal.”

Fast forward ten years and the Silvas cousins are chasing another goal: establishing themselves as professional footballers in sweltering Singapore – more than 10,000 kilometres away from home.

For the 19-year-olds, it is a journey that has come with some sacrifice.

From Seattle to Singapore

The next step for me was college soccer and I didn’t want to do that – I wanted to go straight professional

- Diego

Diego for one, has given up offers from established soccer colleges. Having left Major League Soccer side Seattle Sounders’ academy, he decided the next best move would be to turn professional.

“The next step for me was college soccer and I didn’t want to do that – I wanted to go straight professional,” he said.

“It was a risk for me because by signing a professional contract, you give up your eligibility to play. If I was to go back to college now, I wouldn’t be able to go back to any of those schools.”

The chance for a move abroad came through a familiar source – a man Diego said has left an indelible impact on his career.

“My father came here to do the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) stuff for Tampines,” he explained. “I had recently left the club I was with in the States and was looking for somewhere to play. Tampines came up and we figured we’d try it out.”

The two Silvas hoping to chase after their dreams here

A former United States (US) international with two caps to his name, Thomas Silvas was also an established coach with a US Soccer Federation 'A' licence.  He is now the director of CSR at Tampines.

“He was coaching the teams and so when I could walk, I was already out at the practices and stuff – just kicking around,” said Diego. “Clay and I played together for the longest time, so a lot of stuff he knows is also from my dad.”

After arriving in June last year and signing for the Stags’ Prime League team, it was not long before Diego was catapulted into the S.League first team. He netted two in his debut against Albirex during the last game of the season.

Diego scored a brace on this debut last year. Photo: S.League

Next to follow was Clay, who arrived five months later, before signing for Warriors FC. He had previously played for Sacramento Republic FC's under-18 side.

Said Clay, “I wanted to kind of be on my own and start playing football professionally. I think that helped me, just being away from my home, growing up a little bit.”

A new start

For both Clay and Diego, Singapore took some getting used to, having come from the cooler climes of California.

For both Clay and Diego, Singapore took some getting used to, having come from the cooler climes of California.

Said Diego, “If you play a game at night or in the morning there, it’s really cool but here the only difference is when the sun’s out – It’s worse. You have to get used to the breathing.”

While adapting was “difficult” at first, Clay said he eventually got used to conditions.

Coming up against experienced players such as Baihakki Khaizan also helped him learn the “little things” which he believed has been beneficial in his developement.

“But, I don’t think I really changed the way I play,” he added. “There’s little things that I just learnt but I think wherever I play I try to keep my style.”

Forging close relationships with teammates has also helped the Silvas cousins – with Warriors striker Jordan Webb a common denominator between the two.

“It was pretty nice because last season he was on my team. So, me and Jordan were close last year,” said Diego. “Before going to Warriors, he had told me ‘I’ll take care of your cousin’ and they get along really well.”