SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Chelsea forward Faiq Jefri Boliah is easily the most marked footballer at the Southeast Asian Games. Everywhere the 17-year-old Brunei royal goes someone is by his side.
Off the field it is two bodyguards who ensure the nephew of the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s super rich, is well looked after.
On the pitch, the lone forward, a standout talent in a weak Brunei under-23 side, is always kept in check by four defenders.
The close marking meant his SEA Games adventure ended early at the group stage on Monday after Brunei were beaten 2-0 by Malaysia to make it five defeats in five games.
Monday’s loss at a near deserted Bishan Stadium in Singapore followed the script of the team’s four other Group A defeats by Vietnam, East Timor, Laos and Thailand.
Faiq, the son of one of the world’s most famous royals, Prince Jefri Bolkiah who is renowned for leading an extravagant, playboy lifestyle, was forced to feed of scraps as his under siege team mates pumped aimless long balls forward hoping to find their headline act.
“Normally I‘m a winger but here I play the striker role, its different but I’ll play there,” the fast-talking forward told Reuters.
With his few touches, the former Arsenal trialist with the yellow boots and tall hair was able to show his pace and dribbling capabilities which threatened to result in a second goal of the tournament following a penalty against East Timor.
His step-overs and feints drew screaming admiration from a small group of young female admirers.
But his evening ended prematurely in the 81st minute when he was replaced after his frustrations boiled over. Moments earlier he screamed at his team mates to give the ball to him instead of firing another hopeful long pass.
There was no resentment, though, as he said his farewells and posed for numerous pictures.
“The boys did really, really well, they should be proud of themselves. Worked really hard,” he said.
“I thought, maybe fitness is something we have to work on to last the whole 90 minutes.”
For Faiq, next stop is London in preparation for the start of pre-season on July 2 with the English Premier League champions.
With 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek making his breakthrough into the first team, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has shown his willingness to give his academy talents, who won the UEFA Youth League last term, a chance. Faiq, though, is taking nothing for granted.
“Taking it slow, realistic goals, slowly by slowly, keeping it realistic, keep playing my matches, keep playing well and see where it takes me,” he said.
Editing by Ed Osmond