One of three new signings from Portugal, striker Diogo Caramelo, 20, is a player who has caught the eye, so far, with an assist at his only start and a good command of English which helps him explain things for his two compatriots, goalkeeper Andre Martins and midfielder Vitor Ladeiras.
Like the other pair, Diogo, whose full name is Diogo Miguel Caramelo Santos, was born in Lisbon and has played most of his football either there, or on the outskirts of the Portuguese capital city.
Stags’ coach, Tay Peng Kee, has been careful not to over- expose his new players too soon, given that this is their first venture outside Europe and their acclimatisation needs to be managed carefully.
Apart from his new goalkeeper he gave the two outfield players some time off the bench in their first two outings, before handing them a start. Both did well, though they are still finding their feet.
The break between games in the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League, during the running of the RHB Singapore Cup Quarter-Finals has given the new men time to blend in and learn more about their new domicile.
Caramelo has been playing football since the age of five and wants to go as far as he can in the game. Distance-wise he probably has already, as he had not given Singapore a second- thought during his younger playing days, but jumped at the chance to join his two fellow team-mates and venture out to the LionCity, ready to play and ready to continue learning.
“Everyone here’s been great,” he enthused.
“The people are very warm and welcoming and always helpful to us,” he went on.
When he was five Diogo played in a central position, as it was only 7-a-side up to the age of eleven that was played in his native Portugal.
So, technically, he was as much a midfielder as a striker, but he has always loved to score goals.
Once he turned eleven, though, he officially became a striker and he has made it clear that he has no desire to change to being other than a forward now.
From that tender age of five, Caramelo was with the world famous Benfica club, right up until the age of 18.
He then switched to his only other club, the one he signed from when he joined Tampines Rovers, Real Massama.
It’s a club on the outskirts of Lisbon, but many of the big football clubs are based in and around the capital and he has known no other environment than that of a Lisbon boy all of his life.
Until now, that is.
“I played in Spain in a tournament for my club when I was 18 and I went to Switzerland to try out with Grasshoppers when I was 19 .
“I trained with them in Switzerland, then went and played for them in a friendly in Austria, during the week I was with them.
“I could have joined them, but it would not have been first team football, so I decided to stay in Portugal at that time.
“I had a chance to play also with Deportivo de la Coruna in Spain at about the same time the chance came to play for Tampines, but as you know I chose Singapore, to play first team football.
“I intend to work hard here and stay as long as I can with Tampines and see how far I can go with the club and in Singapore.
Diogo, who shares an apartment with his fellow-Portuguese team mates, Vitor and Andre, has been joined here for a few weeks by his girl-friend from Portugal, Raquel.
Naturally, like the other pair, he has been seeing what Singapore has to offer for the visitor, which in the case of his girl-friend, he tells us, is plenty of shopping!
Coach Tay Peng Kee has found all three of his new players needed some time to settle in to their new surroundings and Diogo has been no exception.
“Diogo has good technical skills,” the coach said.
“He has worked hard in training, like the other new boys. It’s clear that heading is not one of his strengths, but he does have good skill on the ball,” Tay went on.
“He will need to work on his understanding with the other players a bit, as that much is lacking at the moment. His positional sense is not all it could be, either, but he is working hard to adapt to the way the team plays and how they communicate with one another.
“He’s quite a relaxed character and he’s working a lot with (Aleksandar) Duric on what he needs to do to come up to the mark and it’s all coming along well, I have to say.
Unlike the keeper, Martins, who played all of the games until getting injured during the Home United match, Diogo and his Portuguese team-mate, Vitor Ladeiras, have only played one full match so far, so it’s only early days for the three of them.
“So far I’d rate his performances as only satisfactory at this stage,” declared the coach.
“But it’s too early to judge him or the others and Diogo is trying his best to fit in here. His finishing, a couple of times, has not been the best – he missed a couple of good chances in one game – but that’s to be expected and given time I’m sure he’ll be able to contribute more.
Like the other two he shares an apartment with, whose partners will also be coming over for a short holiday soon, Diogo hope the familiar visitors will help him overcome any lingering difficulties all three may be facing in this, their first every playing contract outside Portugal.
“I want to go as far as I can in the game and I see no reason why I can’t make a successful career here in Singapore,” said the striker, who cannot wait to get back into action, once the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League resumes in August, following the break for the RHB Singapore Cup.
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