Interviews

Fast-maturing Pereira aims for Singapore glory

Singapore Under-21 midfielder Joshua Pereira has not looked out of place in his first season in the S.League and is now eagerly anticipating his first-ever Causeway Derby in his career...

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After winning the ball off an opponent, Joshua Pereira would often take one touch and sized up his options before spraying passes forward.

That is a key facet of Pereira’s game, which is evident whenever he turns out for the Garena Young Lions in the S.League.

Turning 19 in October, Pereira belies his tender years with his composed style of play in the middle of the park – an area where tackles come flying in and there is little time to dwell on possession.

“Well, I guess that (calmness) comes with more game time,” Pereira told FourFourTwo. “It also helps when you have an experienced midfield partner in Firdaus (Kasman).

“He, too, is always composed on the ball. He’s constantly encouraging us to compose ourselves and just play good football.”

Firdaus Kasman has been a huge help to Pereira's development

Pereira is just months into his first season at the professional level, but he has already noted the level of difference between playing in the S.League and the Prime League.

“It’s been tough so far,” said the Temasek Polytechnic student. “The pace is so much quicker and the challenges are more physical.

“But it has also been exciting because me and my teammates are treating this as a good learning experience at this age. To be able to compete with more experienced and high-quality opposition week in week out can only help our development.

“It’s just been a few months, but I’ve already learnt a lot over this short period.”

Missing the start of the season through injury, Pereira had to work his way into the Young Lions first 11.

He is now reaping the dividends as he clocked up seven appearances in all competitions and scored one goal in the process.

That came in the Young Lions’ 3-1 extra-time defeat to Philippines side Ceres La Salle in the Singapore Cup, where his 87th-minute strike resulted in a 1-1 draw at the end of regular time.

Not known for his goalscoring prowess, it was a feat that surprised the man himself.

“I didn’t expect that to happen because I’m usually not so high up in the field!” quipped the 2015 Dollah Kassim award winner. “There was also a bit of luck involved because we hit the bar twice before that.

“The ball then fell kindly in front of me, so I just had to sort out my feet before tapping the ball in (from two yards out). It was an amazing feeling to score, especially in a Cup game and to level the game at 1-1.

“It was just a pity that we could not win the game in extra time and go into the quarter-finals.”

Pereira scored his first goal for the Young Lions in May

So far it has been a good year for Pereira, who also had the privilege of going on an eight-day training stint with French Ligue 1 side St Etienne back in March.

The trip proved to be a true eye opener for the up-and-rising youngster.  

“It was fantastic to get this opportunity to train in France,” he said. “I learnt quite a bit from them in terms of being disciplined, taking care of their own bodies and their massive winning mentality.”

Moving forward, Pereira is likely to play an integral role again as he suits up for the Singapore Under-21s at the inaugural Nations Cup in Malacca this weekend.

Coached by Richard Tardy, the Cubs will face off against their Malaysian counterparts on Friday night at the Hang Jebat Stadium – a match which Pereira just cannot wait to play in.

“This is the first time I’m playing against a Malaysian age-group national team,” he revealed. “Previously I only played against a few Malaysian club sides, that’s about it.

“I’m quite pumped up to play against Malaysia because they have many quality players. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn as a team how to cope with playing against a hostile home crowd.

The talented youngster has been making his presence felt in midfield

“I’ve heard and seen so much about Causeway Derby games, but I’m not worried about things boiling over. No matter what happens, we’ll try to keep our cool and play good football.”

The tournament takes special significance for Pereira too, with his family travelling up to root for him in the stands.

“My family will be driving up to Malacca to watch me play,” he shared. “It’s something that means a lot to me because my grandma will be coming along as well.

“It’s a special occasion because we haven’t had a holiday in a while. It’s nice to be able to spend a little time with them and show them what I love to do in life.”