Donning the Singapore jersey brings something special out of Glenn Kweh. With three goals in nine games for the U23s, he’s the next Young Lion’s player to have been called up to the senior team and deservedly so. He dazzled fans at the recently concluded Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam as well as last year’s AFC U23 Qualifiers, despite only making his professional debut at the age of 21, just last year.
Glenn is no stranger to the limelight, having been nominated for the illustrious Dollah Kassim Award back in 2015. He was a rising star, captaining Home United’s powerhouse youth sides as well as being a regular in the National Football Academy (NFA) 15 and 16 sides.
In spite of this recognition at a young age, his footballing endeavours took a back seat after completing his O-level exams in 2016. The rigours of the Junior College System meant Glenn had to make the difficult decision of leaving the NFA set-up in order to focus on his upcoming A-level exams at his new school, Victoria Junior College (VJC). As a result, Glenn almost fell through the cracks of Singaporean football, fading away from the scene as many players do as they grow older. Although he enjoyed his time with the VJC team, the level simply wasn’t close to what he was accustomed to with NFA and saw him slip behind his batch-mates.
Nevertheless, he excelled in his studies, scoring well enough in his A-levels to secure himself a place at the reputable National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School upon the completion of his National Service (NS).
NS proved to be another hurdle for Glenn, who always wanted a return to competitive football. After completing his Basic Military Training (BMT) followed by his course at the Sergeant Cadet School (SCS), Glenn was looking forward to the prospect of training with the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association alongside players such as Hami Syahin. To his dismay, he was only released to train at his own time, limiting his time on the pitch to the weekends. The COVID-19 Pandemic struck soon after, bringing his limited time on the pitch to a complete halt.
As time passed, football resumed and Glenn’s unwavering desire to play at the highest level became his priority. He had finished NS and had six months before his first semester at NUS would commence, securing himself a trial with Young Lions ahead of the 2021 SPL season.
“My dad actually reached out to Coach Phillipe, he remembered me from my days at Home United, and said he would let him know if there was an opportunity for me. Thankfully there was an opening for me to come in on a trial, and I guess I impressed.”
Impress he did, securing himself a contract a few games into the season. Nonetheless, it wasn’t without its challenges, although surrounded by many familiar faces from his youth days, the level was a step-up. He was competing with players that had been training and playing consistently, whilst all he had known for the last two years was his duties as a Guards Sergeant.
“It definitely took some time to get up to speed, I’d say I was rusty but eventually I found my groove and started to feel more comfortable. I was honestly just happy to be in a professional environment, training everyday. It was something I had been waiting a long time for.”
He took like a fish to water, coming off the bench days after signing to net on his SPL debut against Hougang in the dying moments of the game. Although the Young Lions failed to hold onto all three points, it was a special moment for Glenn, a moment to reflect on after facing countless roadblocks over the last few years.
“Obviously I was super happy, and it was nice to help contribute to the team which always comes first. My dad was super proud, he’s always supported my footballing journey and it was nice to be able to repay the faith he’s always had in me.”
After a few months living the life of a professional footballer, Glenn would again continue his education, this time instead opting to try and balance the stresses of being a University student at NUS alongside trying to cement his spot in both the Young Lions and National U22 setup.
Glenn has always prioritised football, organising his school schedule around training and matches. However, trying to perform on two fronts does take a toll on Glenn mentally, especially with an extensive curriculum alongside daily training and games. He has no complaints though, he chose this life and has the bigger picture in mind, citing a career after football as the main reason for his academic pursuits.
“I can’t be a footballer forever, and I think a business degree in particular puts me in the best position to pursue a range of jobs when I retire. It was always my plan to go to JC and University, but football was my dream and I still see it that way. I may be tired after a day of school, but I see training as an escape, I don’t see it as a job. There are times where school has to take precedence, when I have exams or other commitments but the coaches have been super understanding and it doesn’t really happen often.”
It must have been frustrating for Glenn at times, sacrificing much of his free time to train and to travel to games, only to not get as many minutes as he would’ve liked, appearing 10 times, only three of which being starts in the 2021 SPL season.
He described it as being part and parcel of football, and that as long as he kept working hard he would get an opportunity, and it would be up to him to take advantage of it. He did just that, with Ilhan Fandi going for season-ending surgery in early September, Glenn saw an increased role in the latter stages of the season, culminating in three starts out of three in our AFC U23 Qualifying campaign, performing exceptionally with plaudits and shouts for a call-up to the senior side ahead of December’s AFF Suzuki Cup.
“I knew with Ilhan being out there would be big boots to fill, but I don’t really get fazed by that sort of thing. I don’t really let the pressure get to me, I just focus on what I’m doing on the pitch and try my best. That’s my mindset everytime I step onto the field.”
Humble, unassuming, handsome, intelligent and that sweet left foot, I could talk about Glenn for days, a sentiment Thailand’s U19 Head-Coach Salvador Garcia shares. Glenn’s AFC Qualifying performances were so eye-catching, that ahead of our opening match vs Thailand in the AFF U22 Championship, Thailand’s coaches spent half an hour pre match discussing how they would contain the electric forward. Glenn was only fit enough to make the bench due to a bout of illness, but it spoke volumes of his quality.
Glenn’s 2022 has had its ups and downs thus far, having only started three matches in the SPL this season, being used as an impact substitute more often than not. Nonetheless, when called upon he always gives 100% and showed against Laos and in the rest of the SEA Games group stage why he is so dangerous. He plays with an infectious fearlessness evident in his marauding runs down the right wing before cutting onto his left foot and finishing.
Glenn has earned this opportunity through his perseverance. Perseverance at times when many in Singapore would and have given up. Juggling an education alongside pursuing a career in any professional sport is extremely difficult, and more power to Glenn for managing all of that on top of the other challenges he’s had to face. He’s also a great teammate and person, I know what he can bring on the pitch and that he has match-winner potential. He can single-handedly create something out of nothing, just ask last year’s Filipino U23s.
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