First Fandi, then Sundram, now Safuwan

First Fandi, then Sundram, now Safuwan
Friendly football match between Singapore and Cambodia ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup at Yishun Stadium. Safuwan Baharudin (in red).

He has long been touted as a special player, and Singapore international defender Safuwan Baharudin is set to realise his dream of playing in the A-League.

The 23-year-old (left) centre back spent 10 days with Australian club Melbourne City on their mid-season training camp in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, featuring in two friendly matches against Al-Jazira of the United Arab Emirates and Ukranian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.

His steady performances seem to have convinced the City selectors and The New Paper understands the club are about to sign him on for the rest of the A-League season.

Safuwan, who has been with the LionsXII since 2012, could not be reached for comment.

But in a post on his instagram account, he put up a picture of himself in a City jersey with the caption: "No one says it was going to be easy but dreams do come true!"

He also tagged City players David Williams, Aaron Mooy and Nick Symeoy.

If he does sign with the Melbourne club, it will be the most significant move abroad by a Singapore player since Fandi Ahmad's stint with Dutch club Groningen (1983-1985) and V Sundramoorthy's time with Swiss side FC Basel (1988).

City, who finished bottom last season, are now in sixth spot in the 10-team A-League, which is on a break because of this month's Asian Cup Finals, which is being held in Australia.

The club have four imports - former Chelsea winger Damien Duff, former West Brom midfielder Robert Koren, Argentine midfielder Jonatan Germano and Dutch defender Rob Wielaert.

The club have an extra foreign player spot to fill and Safuwan, who is already regarded as one of the best centre backs in South-east Asia, did his chances no harm when he turned out for them against Al-Jazira and Dnipro.

In the 2-0 defeat by Al-Jazira on Jan 11, he played for almost 70 minutes and went up against former Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic, and gave as good as he got against the experienced Montenegrin.

Safuwan won aerial duels against the 31-year-old striker and chalked up a high pass completion rate.

In the 1-1 draw against Ukrainian Premier League runners-up Dnipro a week later, he showed his adaptability by coming on after just 15 minutes for Wielaert, who was injured, and settled easily into what on paper was an unfamiliar right-back position.

He was fearless, pushing forward whenever possible to help out in attack.

The A-League resumed yesterday and is scheduled to end on April 26.

City resume their season with a home game against bottom side Western Sydney Wanderers next Sunday.

Safuwan is currently preparing for the LionsXII's fourth year in the Malaysian Super League.

In an interview published on the FAS website recently, he said he was keeping his fingers crossed that Melbourne City would consider taking him on board.

"I've definitely learnt a lot from the players and coaches here," he said.

"Hopefully I have done enough to make them keep me in their thoughts and on their radar,"

In an earlier interview with TNP, he had also said: "There's no more holding back now. If an A-League team wants me, then it's a 100 per cent 'yes' from me."

FACTFILE

Name: Safuwan Baharudin

Date of birth: Sept 22 1991

Height: 1.82m

Weight: 68kg

Position: Centre Back

Former clubs: Courts Young Lions (2009-11), LionsXII (2012-14)

International caps/goals: 43/2

Honours: SEA Games bronze (2009, 2013), Suzuki Cup winner (2012), Malaysian Super League champion (2013)


This article was first published on Jan 25, 2015.
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