I coach a junior soccer program at my local club and as part of it I try to teach the kids all of the tricks and flicks that I found so amazing when I was starting out. From the Cruyff turn to the Ronaldo step over, Maradona spin and beyond nothing is held back from my kids no matter how young they are. Most of them simply don’t get it of course but the hope is that they will practice the skills and as they get older. They will soon have them nailed and be confident enough to use them during a match should the opportunity arise. The real dream though is to one-day find a six year old that simply has it all. A kid with incredible balance and awareness that takes on everything that you throw at him instantly. It seems an almost impossible dream to chase as such natural talents are extremely rare, but it is out there. Just ask Ajax Football Club. In an extreme piece of good fortune the staff at the Dutch giant’s youth academy have stumbled across such a gem. In a move that could be compared to winning the lottery 8 year old Indonesian, Naufal Alif Tristan, has been stolen from the clutches of his beloved Liverpool to settle down in Holland.
Football in Indonesia is extremely popular and participation at youth age is massive. But for a country with such a strong love of the sport there is simply no money to develop the often prestigious talent that herds in to the local Futsal centres. This is where the big clubs in Europe have stepped in. They have seen the void and have taken the chance to set up Academies. On one hand they are designed to give the locals the chance to encounter top class coaching. On the other they are set up to poach the best of the best and groom them for stardom in the big leagues.
It was at the Liverpool Academy that the ‘The New Mess’ or ‘The Little Messi’ in his home country was spotted. Tristan was a massive fan of the club and they were desperate to sign him because of his obvious skills and natural ability. He started taking English lessons and it is thought he would head to Anfield to continue his footballing journey.
"Alif we project to follow the trial in the UK when he is 10 years old, because now he is only 7 years old. We will continue to monitor it," said the Liverpool Academy’s Public Relations officer in Indonesia, Qatrunnada Salma.
"He is currently studying English and we also continue to monitor the physical condition and nutrition of Alif," he added.
Just from watching the video it is not hard to understand why Liverpool want to keep a close eye on this kid and where better than in the confines of their Youth Academy in the UK. The comparisons with Wan Kuzain another well-known footballing prodigy from America are obvious; Tristan is quick, well balanced, with great imagination and a confidence beyond his years. The youngster has already wowed former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola with his bag of tricks while appearing on TV. But despite his obvious talent the people at Liverpool feel it is essential for Tristan to keep his feet on the ground stating that he still has a lot of learning to do.
"Tristan is a great kid," said senior coach of the LFC Academy in Indonesia Paul Barratt in an interview with LiverpoolFC.tv.
"His attitude is brilliant. He always listens to the coaches and tries his very best at all times. However, we need to remember that Tristan is only 7 years old. Now, he needs to learn how to fit into a team. We're committed to continuing to support Tristan and helping him achieve his potential in the hope that he can one day make it as a professional footballer."
But despite what seemed to be a done deal the move never eventuated. In February 2014 Alif Tristan instead moved to Holland to join up with the famous Ajax youth academy after the deal to join Liverpool fell through. The reason behind the change of heart is still something of a mystery but it is thought club politics and visa issues were to blame. Liverpool's loss is Ajax's gain.