A WOKING teen is already dreaming of one day captaining his country.

Reef Peries, 18, was selected for Sri Lanka’s national football squad after impressing at a selection camp in Colombo last month. And with three FIFA World Cup qualifiers coming up, he is excited about what lies ahead.

Peries, who is also part of the Woking FC academy, told the News & Mail: “I’m looking forward to making my debut first, and then just playing as many games as possible.

“Hopefully I might get the captaincy later down the line. But for now I want to make my mark on the team and see how far we can go up the FIFA rankings.”

Peries – a pupil of Gordon’s School at West End – may not have found himself in this position if it hadn’t been for a series of extraordinary occurrences, as his father Darren revealed.

Dad Darren said: “We’d looked into Reef’s eligibility for Sri Lanka last year through the FIFA descent rule. And when we sent his footballing data to the Sri Lankan federation [via the AIScout platform], they were blown away and said ‘Can we get him in for a trial?’.

“And it just so happened we were in Sri Lanka last October for the funeral of my father Neville [through whom Reef qualifies].

“So Reef was able to go along. It was a real sliding-doors moment. He took that opportunity and it’s progressed from there.

With Sri Lanka having recently hired a new manager – Bosnian Amir Alagic – Reef was asked to fly back out to Colombo last month to prove his worth ahead of the boss selecting his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against North Korea (26 March), South Korea (31 March) and Lebanon (4 June).

With North Korea only accessible via China, and travel there being discouraged due to coronavirus fears, it’s likely that the game will either be postponed or held at a neutral venue.

It will also be a challenge completing his A levels alongside the football and the travelling, but Reef and his family are determined to make it work.

Darren said: “We made a call to say ‘If he thinks he can juggle both, then do it’. He’ll never get this opportunity again.”

For the full story get the 5 March edition of the News & Mail