News Singapore Premier League • July 10, 2018
Joshua Pereira: Back in engine room, back in stride with Young Lions
Having weathered nasty injuries and a disrupted 2017, the midfielder is simply happy to play regularly again
Joshua Pereira in action for the Young Lions this season.
SINGAPORE, 10 JULY 2018 – When he was 12, Joshua Pereira fractured his right fibula (calf bone) and told his mother he did not want to play football anymore.
He would change his mind – only to be rocked by another major injury blow four years later when he suffered a broken ankle.
It could have easily sounded the death knell for a budding career, but the setback only served to steel Pereira’s resolve.
“I actually had to sit out of a really important tournament, the 2013 Lion City Cup,” he told the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) website. “I was really upset I could not play… (but) I wanted to be back on the pitch as soon as I could.
“That was already enough motivation for me to work as hard as I could and make my way back slowly.”
The likes of Irfan Fandi and Adam Hakeem were catapulted into the limelight during the tournament, but it would not be long before Pereira’s time to shine came.
Playing for a Singapore side that finished third in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 Championship qualifying group behind South Korea and Thailand in 2015, the lanky midfielder impressed Technical Director Michel Sablon with his performances.
Joshua Pereira captaining the Young Lions for the first time.
That led to an invitation to train with the Young Lions and he would go on to make his professional debut at 18 the following season, chalking up 18 appearances despite his relative inexperience.
“I was really nervous because I had missed the start of the season due to an injury, but I think I played okay and from then on, things went much better than I could have imagined,” Pereira said of his maiden game.
“It (the debut) meant a lot because I was one of the younger boys and it was my first year… To be given the opportunity to play was amazing and I have to thank the coaching staff who put their faith in me.”
Remarkably, Pereira had hardly played as a central midfielder before that. He picked up the sport under the influence of his father, who would bring both him and his elder brother to kickabouts at the Eurasian Association Football School.
He cites his family as his greatest motivation – along with his girlfriend, they are usually at his matches to support him – and is particularly in awe of his father.
“I really look up to and respect him because he works really hard in the day and sometimes at night, just to provide for our family,” he explained. “Even so, he doesn’t complain and is always cheerful (and) making everyone smile.”
The sessions soon became weekly affairs and Pereira went on to play as a striker during primary school, before moving out to the wings in secondary. There was also a brief while at centre-back, before he was deployed in the engine room during the Singapore U-21s’ campaign at the 2015 Newspaper Cup in Vietnam.
Watch Joshua Pereira score his first ever league goal.
That tournament in Ho Chi Minh City brought about the best moment of Pereira’s career – scoring a last-minute equaliser against a Vietnam U-21 side to bring about a penalty shootout, which Singapore won 6-5 to finish third.
A ball-playing midfielder who seeks to make the ball “work for us”, Pereira is hitting his stride again this season after featuring only four times last season.
That was largely due to injury – a rib fracture in pre-season and a foot fracture while on international duty with the Singapore U-23s combined to keep him out for half the season – and internship commitments for his Hospitality and Tourism Management diploma at Temsasek Polytechnic.
Pereira scored his first ever league goal in their opening 2-0 win against Hougang United FC and has chipped in with two assists. As one of the more experienced players in Fandi Ahmad’s side, the 1.8m midfielder has started 13 of their 14 league matches and captained the team in their last match against Geylang International FC.
“I was pleasantly surprised and it was definitely an honour to captain the team for the first time,” he said. “I think that the aim for this season would be to finish as high up the table as we can.”
Add to that a keenness to make a point after an injury-disrupted 2017, and you have a fired-up Pereira in the Young Lions engine room this year.
“The chances I could have taken and the thought of the things that I could have done in the second season were gone, so I was really looking forward to this season and to show what I can do on the pitch,” he admitted. “Nevertheless, I have to thank my coaches for the trust they have put in me as well.”
Turning professional is the aim for Pereira, who has six months to go until graduation, and aspires to make the step up to the senior international set-up in the coming years.
For now though, he is just happy to be back and playing regularly with the same fierce desire that saw him bounce back from those injuries years ago, and that will help him reach greater heights in football.