Football: Fandi's tactical vanguard

Football: Fandi's tactical vanguard
PHOTO: The Straits Times

In an intense, competitive Cup tournament, a well-used substitute - whom LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad calls an "impact player" - can serve as a crucial boost late in the game for even the strongest starting line-up.

And Fandi believes he has exactly such a player whom he can summon from the bench for the upcoming Malaysia Cup competition - winger Christopher van Huizen.

In just seven appearances this season for the LionsXII, including five as a substitute, the 22-year-old has already contributed three assists and a goal.

His performance and work ethic have not gone unnoticed. Said Fandi: "For the past few games, even if he came on for just 20 minutes, he took his chances well.

"He has been improving with every week. He's more aggressive than before, and is more versatile - he can play as a left or right flanker. He makes good crosses and penetrative passes.

"It was a big jump for him to go from the Prime League to this team, but he has been working hard. He's off to a great start, and I hope that he can keep up the good work and maintain it. He definitely deserves his spot in the team."

It has been a meteoric rise for van Huizen, who was not even playing in the S-League two years ago.

His fortunes changed in 2013 when he made the final cut in the football reality programme, First XI. He later joined Tampines Rovers and played in the development squad in the Prime League.

He made a handful of S-League appearances, and scored his only league goal on his debut against Woodlands.

The tenacious player then caught the eye of Fandi, who added him to the LionsXII roster this season.

In his first LionsXII game on April 8, van Huizen came off the bench to score an extra-time goal in a 2-0 victory over Johor Darul Takzim II in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup quarter-finals.

He was given his first start for the LionsXII on Aug 19 against Sarawak, and in his second start against Sime Darby three days later, he delivered a pinpoint corner kick for Safuwan Baharudin to head in the opening goal in their 3-0 win.

Assistant LionsXII coach Nazri Nasir said: "He's got a lot of potential and a good future ahead of him. We see that he has worked hard and gives 100 per cent in training, and we will give him more opportunities to play."

Van Huizen is eager to prove his worth for the LionsXII as they begin their Malaysia Cup campaign tonight with a home tie against Kedah.

He said: "When I am on the bench, I am prepared to give 110 per cent when I am called on to play.

"I push myself hard because the chance to play is very precious. It's a chance for me to show what I can do well - more than in training."

This article was first published on September 12, 2015.
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