No Fears On The Big Stage

 No Fears On The Big Stage
Sahil Suhaimi (left) and Iqbal Hussain at the team hotel in Naypyidaw. The young duo, not used to chasing honours in the S-League, have had to cope with a higher level of play at the SEA Games in Myanmar. Singapore next face Brunei and champions Malaysia in their quest for gold in football.

NAYPYIDAW - In a team comprised mainly of Malaysian Super League winners, a slight striker who scored just three goals in the S-League this year is hogging the limelight - and rightly so.

If not for Sahil Suhaimi, it is fair to say that Singapore would not be sitting atop Group A after two SEA Games football matches.

For not only has the 21-year-old bagged both the Young Lions' goals, he has also been their most classy and crafty performer thus far.

But, while fans and coach Aide Iskandar sing his praises, the youngster has yet to cope with his new-found fame and the step up to a new level of football.

The Courts Young Lions player gets nervous in the presence of the media, preferring to let others do the talking.

"Every team has one quiet guy - I'm him," he said sheepishly.

On the field, he began to tyre past the hour mark on Sunday in the 1-1 opener against Laos and had to be substituted.

On Tuesday, the match-winner ran himself to the ground in a 1-0 shock win over Vietnam, suffering cramps after the game.

"When we got back to the hotel, my whole body was 'koyak' (Malay for broken)," he told The Straits Times after a recovery session at the team hotel yesterday.

"In the S-League, you can relax sometimes. But, here, you're running up and down non-stop because coach expects us to keep pressing."

In the process, his potential to create as well as tuck away chances is there for all to see.

"One shot, one kill," was how the 1.61-metre forward described his strikes in Myanmar so far.

Aide referred to his charge as a "special player" and a "difference maker".

Sahil has been playing that role for some time, albeit at the junior level.

In 2007, he notched 25 goals as the National Football Academy Under-17s swept the U-18 league title. A year later, and playing against older and tougher opponents in the U-23 Prime League, he hit 16 goals as the U-18s finished second.

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