TOP-FLIGHT FOOTBALL: Nazmi signs deal with Beira-Ma
KUALA LUMPUR: NAZMI Faiz Mansor had only one thing on his mind since he was a child: to become the first Malaysian to play top-flight football in Europe.
The 17-year-old midfielder finally realised his dreams by becoming the first Southeast Asian player to earn a contract with a premier league side in Portugal.
Nazmi, a member of the national under-23 squad, signed a pre-contract agreement for a three-year deal until July 2015 with Sport Clube Beira-Mar three days ago at the club's base in Aveiro.
Under the rules of International Federation of Association Football (Fifa), the world football body, Nazmi can sign professional terms only when he turns 18 on Aug 18.
His breathtaking goal in an Olympic qualifier against Bahrain last November, his impressive display in the Sea Games and good showing for Young Tigers A in the Singapore League earned him a three-day trial with Beira-Mar last week.
Beira-Mar coach Ulisses Morais, impressed by the Malaysian, signed up Nazmi.
Nazmi told the club's website on Monday: "It's hard for me to describe my feelings. To play in Europe has long been my aim.
"This (trial) was my best chance and I'm thankful I have succeeded. I'm extremely happy and excited and can't wait to start on my new adventure.
"I am excited at the prospect of playing against top Portuguese clubs FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon."
He spoke highly of the experience he gained during his trial.
"I fell in love with the club since I first stepped foot here. I was treated very well and I will always hold on to the words and teachings of coach Morales and captain Hugo (Vieira)," said Nazmi, who will join the club in August.
Yesterday, he joined the national youth squad in Budapest, Hungary, for friendly matches. He was greeted and congratulated by Football Association of Malaysia officials, headed by its deputy president, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is in Budapest for a Fifa congress.
While playing down expectations, Morales said Nazmi had what it took to succeed in Portugal.
"Nazmi is a young player with a lot of abilities, but he still has a long way to go. This is only the beginning for him."
Beira-Mar, founded in 1922, flirted with relegation for several weeks this season but finished 12th in the 16-team league.