Football: Safuwan wants to score in FA Cup final and restore local pride

Football: Safuwan wants to score in FA Cup final and restore local pride
Defender Safuwan Baharudin (second from left) has been starring in the heart of midfield for the LionsXII since his return from A-League side Melbourne City. The LionsXII are training ahead of the FA Cup final on at ITE College Central on 19 May 2015.

He only recently created local football history by becoming the first Singaporean to score in Australia's A-League.

But Safuwan Baharudin insists that victory in the Malaysian FA Cup final will rank just as high on his list of personal achievements.

And a goal along the way will do very nicely.

Ahead of yesterday's training at ITE College Central, four days before the Malaysian FA Cup final against Kelantan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, the 23-year-old told The New Paper: "Scoring a goal in a cup final would be up there.

"In the long term, I want to step out of my comfort zone and further my football career abroad. After winning the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Malaysian Super League, a win on Saturday would be a nice addition to my silverware in South-east Asia.

"Now, I have a job to do, which is to help the LionsXII win the FA Cup, and bring Singapore football to the next level after the recent lows."

Safuwan, who has starred in defence, midfield and as an emergency attacker, only recently completed his four-month stint with Melbourne City and started for the LionsXII in the first leg of the FA Cup semi-final against Terengganu at the Jalan Besar Stadium on May 9.

Fandi Ahmad's side won the match 2-1, and Safuwan played as if he had never been away.

In both legs of the semi-final, which the LionsXII won on the away goals rule after the tie ended 4-4, Safuwan was in the thick of the battle, and he relished it.

He was repeatedly clattered by Terengganu's Nordin Alias and Zairo Anuar Zailani in the heart of midfield, but always recovered to pull the strings and provide the crucial link between defence and attack.

"It's good to be back in a team full of familiar faces," said the 23-year-old.

"I'll do whatever it takes to help the team, but it's not been easy trying to adapt to the central midfield role after my time with Melbourne City in the A-League.

"In central midfield, I need to run more, especially when we play with two central midfielders instead of three.

"The central midfielder brings the ball from defence to attack, and must be quick to do so. If the central midfield doesn't function, the whole team break down.

"It's been tough. When I was a defender, I was the one tackling other people.

"As a midfielder, I have had to take as many tackles as I dish out.

STRONGER

"But, riding on these experiences, I feel stronger physically and mentally."

It is clear that Safuwan has blossomed into an intelligent footballer who can easily adapt to any position he is deployed in, be it his customary centre back position, or as a fullback with Melbourne City, or his new role as a central midfielder.

Sporting a new closely cropped haircut, he says he is ready to lead by example on Saturday.

"I enjoy this role in central midfield," he added.

"In Melbourne, I wasn't able to fully express my capabilities because they have good players, and I was new.

"I feel that after the Melbourne stint, I have become a better player who is able to express myself better.

"This new haircut symbolises a fresh start to a new chapter of my football career after my time in the A-League, and I hope it begins with a trophy."


This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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