Lion City Cup alumnus Aaravin right at Home in maiden S.League season
It was a moment to savour for Home United youngster R. Aaravin when he stepped out at Yishun Stadium earlier this April against Balestier Khalsa in a Great Eastern Yeo's S.League clash.
The centre-back marked his professional debut with a 3-1 victory, impressing onlookers with his reading of the game that belied his 19 years.
Aaravin, who is still registered as a Prime League player, has since gone on to make 14 more starts this year in all competitions, with one substitute appearance.
There have been moments when his inexperience has been exposed, but the former NFA U16 star still feels that it has been a "great" time so far turning out for one of Singapore's traditional big clubs.
"I think I've had some great moments as well as some bad moments, so it has been a balanced season," he told ESPNFC, adding that nerves do get to him at times.
"Despite that, I think the season has been great but I still have a long way to go and I need to work even harder to improve myself for the coming years ahead."
There is no better environment for him to do so than Yishun Stadium, with coach Philippe Aw's faith in blooding youth and the mentoring from experienced defenders Noh Rahman, Juma'at Jantan and Abdil Qaiyyim to learn from.
"They are always motivating me, even if I make mistakes - sometimes being a young player, it's tough to overcome that," he explained.
"But with the likes of the senior players, I feel more confident and they are always picking me up. They've also given me advice and helped correct minor details, which has helped me in great ways."
Home face the Courts Young Lions in their last league game this Sunday at Yishun, and Aaravin has urged his teammates to finish on a high.
The uniformed giants looked on course to make a late bid for a top-four finish, but a run of four consecutive defeats means they now need three points to seal sixth place.
Getting back to winning ways will also help them enter the RHB Singapore Cup second leg against Brunei DPMM in two weeks' time with a "great mindset", where they trail 3-2.
"It has definitely been a tough run of games for us and we were unlucky to not grab any points during the last four games," Aaravin noted. "However, we have still been training hard and are eager to end the season with a good result in preparation for our cup game.
"Young Lions are a great team full of energy and are excellent at stringing the ball around. They have one or two great individuals who can be game-deciders, so it is important that our team follow Coach's instructions."
Aaravin himself will likely cheer on his team from the sidelines with Shahrin Saberin, as both are in the FA Cup squad on Friday. Full-back Ang Zhi Wei is out through injury while Yasir Hanapi is away with the national team, but otherwise Aw has no other worries.
His opposite number Juergen Raab will have to do without key trio Safirul Sulaiman, Amirul Adli and Taufik Suparno, who are with the Lions as well, as they look to extend their unbeaten run to four.
Amirul, in particular, has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ranks and having watched him and other former youth team-mates like Adam Swandi make their senior international bow, Aaravin is keen to follow suit.
"I feel it's an achievable goal, but I have to work really hard and put in the extra effort to reach there ultimately," he said with determination.
"I will have to remain disciplined and work towards that and I hope to be there one day and playing with my former teammates Adam and Amirul."
Home United Probable Lineup: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Juma'at Jantan, Abdil Qaiyyim, Noh Rahman (C), Sirina Camara, Song Ui-young, Kamel Ramdani, Stanely Ng, Azhar Sairudin, Ambroise Begue, Ken Ilsø
Courts Young Lions Probable Lineup: Syazwan Buhari (C), Fadli Kamis, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Anumanthan Kumar, Farhan Rahmat, Ammirul Emmran, Afiq Noor, Amy Recha, Jordan Webb, Sherif El-Masri, Shahfiq Ghani