It is never easy dealing with bullying or negativity in one's life and these experiences either make or break us. In Vernon's case, it built his character and resilience.
Here is his story:
“My love for football started back in my secondary school days, when I was younger. It was my passion even though I wasn’t very good at it. I remember being bullied by my teammates because they didn’t see me as a good player.
During training or when we were playing together, they would kick the ball at me so hard that it would leave marks on my arms and legs.
One time, it started raining so heavily that our training was cancelled halfway, I left my boots and jersey out in the canteen while I went to the toilet.
When I came out of the toilet, I found that my teammates took my boots and jersey and threw them out onto the muddy football field. I had to run back in the rain to the football field to get my things and when I got back to the canteen, my teammates grabbed my wallet and ran away with it.
At this point, I couldn’t take it anymore and burst out crying as I thought to myself, “Why is this happening to me, aren’t they supposed to be my friends and teammates?”. Eventually, I managed to get my wallet back and went home. I didn’t tell any of my other friends or family that I was getting bullied because I didn’t want to worry them.
I continued to get bullied throughout my secondary school years till I was in secondary 3. I decided that I had enough of getting bullied and wanted to do something about it. I started playing football even more, playing outside of school at the street soccer courts with people in the neighbourhood to learn from them and develop my skills.
It wasn’t easy because the people I played with outside of school were much bigger in size than me and I had to get used to their style of playing. I even picked up some minor injuries along the way. Even though it was tough, I still played on because I wanted to become better, to improve myself.
The bullying didn’t stop me from doing what I love, instead it motivated me to become an even better player, and to prove my bullies wrong.
I started getting recognised for my hard work and improvement and got selected to join the school team. People around me started noticing my skills and I even got complimented that I played with flair like the Brazilian star Neymar Jr.
At this point, I got the number 10 jersey. The number 10 jersey is a significant number given to players who have (an important role as the playmaker in the team). I thought things were finally going well for me and I was getting respect from my coach and teammates. But one day the team captain said to me “Do you know why coach gave you the number 10 jersey? It’s to trick the opponents to believe that you are a threat on the field, when actually you’re not”. When I heard this, I cried the most I have ever cried.
Still, this incident did not deter me from reaching my goals to prove the bullies wrong. I continued putting in effort to work on my game and when I was in secondary 4, I got the number 10 jersey again. this time, for being a good player both in the eyes of my coach and teammates.
My football journey did not end there, by the time I went on to play football in ITE, I was playing for the ITE football team as well as the Singaporean League’s professional club Balestier Khalsa on the youth team.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have come this far without knowing that my family had my back, supporting my decisions to dedicate myself to football. I am grateful Especially my father, who always gave me advice during those tough times and sacrificed alot for me and our family. I dedicate every goal to him.
to those who are going through bullying, I want my story to encourage you to not let the negative thoughts control you, and do not let them consume you.
Even if you are thinking of self harm, drinking, vaping and smoking, don’t do it. It’s going to affect your life and your family. You have a family waiting for you at home, they don’t want to see you go. They love you so much, even if it seems like they don’t love you, they will still show unconditional love in different ways, you just might not recognize it.
Don’t let bullying stop you from doing what you love, whether it’s sports, reading, studying, just do it. Follow your heart and just keep on doing what you love. “
Vernon*, 18 years Old, ITE.
*Names changed to protect the identity of the youth