Every youngster competing at the Boys’ YOFT Nanjing 2014 has their own idol. But whereas other players worship international superstars who are far beyond reach, Iceland striker Hilmar Andrew McShane is constantly within touching distance of his hero – father Paul McShane.
A former U-20 starlet with Glasgow Rangers, McShane’s Scottish father Paul once had the world at his feet. After being released and relocating to Iceland, McShane senior settled down and started a family, although he still plays football in the local top flight with four-time national champions Keflavik.
"My father is my idol, I'm proud of him," McShane junior told FIFA.com.
"I started learning to play the game aged four years old," said the 15-year-old forward, who turns out for the same club as his father. "Of course, we often talk about football at home, because we never run out of things to say about it, whether it’s my training, the latest matches or whatever."
The technically-gifted centre-forward has so far played a total of 92 minutes spanning Iceland’s three matches in Nanjing. After a second-half appearance in the opener against Honduras followed by a starting spot in the next game against Peru, when he was substituted nine minutes from full-time, McShane was restricted to a three-minute cameo at the end of the semi-final against Korea Republic.
Despite not having a full game under his belt, Hilmar McShane’s ability to jink past defenders at will has made him a real crowd-pleaser and got him out of several tight spots, with dribbling skills that have enabled him to prize open the tightest of defences and fashion goal-scoring opportunities. It comes as no surprise to learn who his game is modelled on: "I like Messi’s style of play," he said.
Iceland made the brightest of starts to their campaign, transforming from pre-tournament underdogs to Olympic medal outsiders with a 5-0 opening victory over CONCACAF U-15 champions Honduras. The north Europeans went on to lose by the odd goal against Peru and hold Korea Republic to a commendable 1-1 draw over 80 minutes, only to lose the ensuing penalty shoot-out. Despite failing to reach the final, Hilmar McShane is far from disappointed.
"[Although we were eliminated in the semi-final] we played a great game," he reflected. "Everyone in the team worked very hard, we just didn’t get the result we hoped for, but that's football.
"This is [Iceland’s] first participation in such a big international competition, so to reach the semi-finals in front of so many spectators is a very good achievement. Competing in the Youth Olympic matches is really an incredible experience, it’s fantastic. I’m proud of the team and myself, we’ve done a great job. "
Having been awarded a hero’s reception in the Youth Olympic arena, Hilmar McShane still has his feet firmly on the ground as he weighs up his future. "I don’t know what will happen after I go back. I’ll return to my club, carry on playing football and work hard on my game,” said McShane, who would like to follow in his father’s footsteps and make a career in the sport. "I certainly want to become a professional player in future, but it’s a road that needs to be taken step by step," he added, benefiting from the hindsight of someone who has been there and done it.