Only 18, Lions' Suzuki Cup debutant Amirul is ready to rule

Only 18, Lions' Suzuki Cup debutant Amirul is ready to rule

It speaks volumes about a player's ability when he is able to get an entire crowd on the edge of their seats.

More so when he's an 18-year-old with only one season as a professional under his belt, and making his debut in one of the biggest games of the region's major football tournament.

Unlike some of his teammates, Amirul Adli took what little opportunity he had to impress, with both hands, putting in a good shift in defence.

Coming on as a 76th-minute substitute in Saturday night's game against Malaysia for the disappointing Shahfiq Ghani, Amirul displayed a calmness and maturity well beyond his years. He provided adequate cover in defence when Safuwan Baharudin rampaged forward.

In a match where his teammates contrived to disappoint, Amirul went on to produce a moment of skill that evoked collective wonder and applause from the National Stadium faithful watching the AFF Suzuki Cup match.

In the 85th minute, with the ball at his feet, the Courts Young Lions defender twisted and turned away from two Malaysian players before playing a good pass to a teammate, and help start yet another attacking move as Singapore went in search of a winner.

Thrown into the deep end in such a vital game, and with his side a goal down, the Lions' youngest player in the tournament, credits the home fans for spurring him on.

Said Amirul: "At first, I was nervous. We were playing Malaysia, our great rivals, at our home ground and needed a result to get through.

"I knew how high the fans' expectations were of the team. And, it was my first Causeway Derby, so there was immense pressure. I could feel it.

"But the fans were amazing, cheering on not only me, but all of us, and that was a huge confidence boost."

For a player who is primed to eventually make the centre-back position in the national team his own, Amirul recognises that he still has a long way to go.

"I'm still very young, and I am thankful to have great teammates like Baihakki Khaizan, Shahril Ishak, Hariss Harun and Shahdan Sulaiman to guide me," he said.

"I'll rate my performance as a six out of 10. I think I'm capable of doing so much better.

"To be honest, I'm not so content with how I played. Defensively, I could have contributed more to prevent Malaysia's two late goals from going in.

"It was devastating to lose 1-3, and certainly not the result I'd have wanted in such a momentous match for me."

Fortunately, Amirul and some of his teammates like Shahfiq, Sahil Suhaimi and Shakir Hamzah have the opportunity to make amends at next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games where they will play against the region's best Under-23 players in the very same stadium.

"I've learnt a lot from the past week, and I'll look at it as a source of motivation, and work towards a better future," he said.

"There will be pressure once again, with us playing at home, and also the fact that Singapore have never won a SEA Games gold in football.

This article was first published on Dec 01, 2014.
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