Singapore's Lost Boys: Rashe Rahman, the rebel that lost his way
In 2012, Rashe was part of the talented National Football Academy (NFA) under-16 squad that finished second in the Lion City Cup (LCC).
I remember how happy I was to finally get a chance to show the world what I can do
In an impressive run, they beat Ajax Amsterdam 2-1, held FC Porto 0-0, thrashed Vasco da Gama 4-0 before losing 4-1 to Ajax in the final.
While peers like Adam Swandi, Mathathir Azeman and Amirul Adli then moved onwards and upwards in their budding careers, Rashe faded into oblivion due to ill-discipline on his part, something he now deeply regrets.
“I was rebellious and I gave up,” Rashe Rahman told FourFourTwo in what turned out to be a refreshingly candid interview.
Reminiscing about the 2012 LCC
Rewind to five years ago and a teenaged Rashe is yearning to shine in the tournament, having missed out on the 2011 edition due to injury.
“I remember how happy I was to finally get a chance to show the world what I can do,” he shared. “I was supposed to play in the 2011 LCC, but I dislocated my collarbone in a friendly match a few days before the tournament.
“I was so sad and angry at myself back then. I even told the doctor to somehow wrap it up and let me play, because I can still play with my feet. It was hard to see my teammates play in that tournament while I’m sitting in the stands.
“During the recovery days, I worked extra hard in the gym and eventually worked my way back into the first 11. In early 2012, I was extra careful not to get injured again and I was really happy that I got into the final squad.”
Rashe was not the biggest of forwards, but made up for a lack of size with hunger and tenacity in abundance as he shone in the 4-0 mauling of Brazilian giants Vasco in the semi-finals with two goals and two assists.
Benched for the 0-0 stalemate against Porto in the final group game, he was hellbent on proving a point against Vasco, making his mark after just five minutes.
My teammates called me ‘mad dog’ because when I step onto the pitch, I just want to win and I give more than 100 per cent
Keeping coach Dejan Gluscevic’s advice in mind, he set up Adam who bundled home the opener.
“Last time my teammates called me ‘mad dog’ because when I step onto the pitch, I just want to win and I give more than 100 per cent,” he said. “I was really motivated to go out there to support my friends after not starting against Porto.
“I remember my right back Ehvin (Sasidharan) threw the ball in and I was sprinting as fast I can to get to the ball. There were two-to-three opponents trying to pull my shirt, but I just did whatever I could to get away from them.
“When I finally did so, I remembered coach Dejan’s advice to drive the ball outside the box as the other players are waiting. There was no point to cross a high ball into the box because I saw Adam waiting outside; Adam then did his trick before scoring. I was so happy to play a part in that goal.”
Rashe then got what he craved most – scoring his first goals of the tournament as Adam repaid the favour with assists in the 66th and 68th minutes.
“I knew that Adam would beat his man with his tricks, cut onto his right side before crossing,” he elaborated.
“For me, I have to be smart not to go into the box first and have some open area so that he can pass to me.
“My first shot was blocked, but I recovered to score with my second try and that was the happiest moment of my life; to be scoring in front of a big crowd.
“Then Adam assisted me again for my second goal and made it easy for me to tap in. I really wanted to get a hat-trick, but at least I managed to assist our fourth goal by driving the ball in, which their goalkeeper was sloppy on and Iqram (Rifqi) managed to tap in.
“It was such a happy night because no one expected such a result and the spirits were high on the bus back to Singapore Sports School, where we stayed during the tournament.”
While Gluscevic’s boys eventually lost the final, the future looked bright for the class of ’96 with Rashe being one of the six – the rest being Adam, R Aaravin, Amirul Adli, Zulfadhmi Suzliman and Mahathir Azeman – fast-tracked into the NFA Reds (Under-18s) under the same coach the following year in 2013.
Rashe was pleased to continue his development under someone he still regards as his best-ever coach. It seemed like the perfect combination.
“I love Dejan as a coach; he’s very strict but he treats all of us like his sons,” he described. “The way he trains us tactically; personally training me on my technique, training me to be versatile to play many positions and training us on outside-field matters like how to handle the media.
“Although I was really playful at that time, he never ever gave up on me.”
Slipping off the rails
Yet instead of capitalising on the opportunity in front of him, this was the period when Rashe started to lose his way, even drawing comparisons with a certain maverick Italian striker.
I was known as a hot-tempered guy and my teammates even used to call me ‘Balotelli’, which I wasn’t that proud of
“My mind was all about football back then and I just wanted to make my family proud, but somehow I became defiant,” he opened up. “That year was really tough for me. I stayed in Sengkang, I have to travel to my school ITE (Institute of Technical Education) Simei, then go to training at Bukit Gombak.
“That meant I have to wake up every day at 6am for school and my day only ended at 11.30pm; it was really exhausting.
“Then I felt my hard work didn’t pay off. I always go for training and work hard, but I often did not get the chance to play. I started skipping training and my attitude turned for the worse, which affected my football as I started getting more cards on the pitch.
“I was known as a hot-tempered guy and my teammates even used to call me ‘Balotelli’, which I wasn’t that proud of. Who else plays as a forward but always gets yellow and red cards, right?”