Like every other football fanatic, Jerald Tan’s life revolved around the Beautiful Game.
On the weekends, the 22-year-old would play social football and watch English Premier League games.
But what really kept him busy was managing Greek side Panathinaikos in the popular simulated video game, Football Manager.
The then-Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) student would spend hours each day on the game, tinkering with his squad and making fantasy multi-million dollar transfers.
But after winning five Superleague Greece trophies, four UEFA Champions League medals and four Club World Cups, Tan (seen above, far left) was hungry for a more realistic challenge.
It was then, in December 2015, that he chanced upon a Facebook advertisement by S.League side Albirex advertising a job opening.
Tan needed no second invitation.
“If you talk about managerial experience, I have a ton of it in Football Manager,” he told FourFourTwo.
“I had no clue about how to run a team, but I was always very interested in how top coaches like (Jose) Mourinho and (Antonio) Conte managed their players.”
Two interviews – the first with general manager Koh Mui Tee and the second with club chairman Daisuke Korenaga – was all it took for Tan to be hired as Albirex’s new assistant team manager.
He was to take over as a club executive.
“Going into the interview, I was pretty nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect.
“But coming out of it, I was confident of landing the position because we ended up casually discussing Liverpool’s chances in the league for half an hour at least,” said the Manchester United fan.
“When Korenaga offered me the contract, it was pretty surreal as I was going to pursue a childhood dream.”
But there was to be one final obstacle in the way — his parents.
They would give him the silent treatment at home after hearing he had taken on the role.
“Like all Singaporean parents, mine didn’t approve of me quitting school for this job,” Tan quipped.
His father finally broke the silence close to four months later, after a home game between Albirex and Tampines Rovers.
“After that game was reported in the papers, he started asking me how my team was doing, and we even had a few debates about football in Singapore,” Tan said.
“They still didn’t accept it fully, at least they didn’t tell me that they did. But they started supporting me, which was important.”