S.League: Neezam in the line of fire

S.League: Neezam in the line of fire

He holds the unique accolade of winning the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League titles in consecutive years.

While he treasures his medals with the LionsXII (in 2013) and Warriors FC last season, Neezam Aziz has mixed feelings about his accomplishments.

"I consider myself part of the two teams, but I think I contributed more last year with the Warriors than I did with the LionsXII," Neezam (right) told The New Paper yesterday.

The 23-year-old was the third-choice custodian for the LionsXII and did not taste any action when V Sundramoorthy's men stormed to the MSL title two years ago.

Neezam moved to the Warriors last year and was No. 2 at the club, behind Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny.

He started six games for the Warriors last season, but will almost certainly be very much in the thick of the action when the club defend their S.League crown this year.

With Hassan signed by rivals Tampines Rovers, Neezam is now the No. 1 for the Warriors.

"It's a whole new level for me, and there's going to be a lot of pressure. Hopefully, it all goes well," said Neezam, whose only international foray was for the Singapore Under-23s at the 2013 Merdeka Cup.

"My teammates have been encouraging; they already know me from last year and they have faith in me.

"I'm not assured of being the first-choice. But with Hassan gone, I have to seize this chance."

Talk about being thrown in the deep end.

The 1.75m-tall goalkeeper will not only have to cope with the pressure of playing for the defending champions, but also his first match will probably be in the AFC Champions League first play-off round against Myanmar's Yadanarbon on Feb 4.

Neezam was actually released by the Warriors at the end of last season after just one year at the Choa Chu Kang-based club.

Head coach Alex Weaver explained that the move was to help Neezam get more playing time at another club.

But, following Hassan's departure, and a failed attempt to sign Singapore No. 3 Fadhil Salim from Hougang United, Weaver turned to Neezam.

"I let Neezam go expecting him to be picked up by another club and was surprised he wasn't," said Weaver.

"I'm glad he was available, he's got a good opportunity now for the No. 1 spot.

OUTSTANDING

"I can understand that being No. 2 to Hassan last season wasn't very motivating, but whenever he filled in he was outstanding."

The Warriors have former Home United second stringer, Daniel Ong, as the other option and Weaver added: "Daniel has come on good recommendations, so there should be a competi-tive environment between the two."

Weaver admitted that both his goalkeepers lack experience at both the S.League and continental level, but he isn't fazed.

"I firmly believe in giving younger players a chance," he said.

"Neezam is a good goalkeeper and he's got the right character to take this opportunity. Daniel will push him on as well."

FACTFILE

Name: Neezam Aziz

Age: 23

Height: 1.75m

Club: Warriors FC

Position: Goalkeeper

Former clubs: Home United Prime League (2011), Courts Young Lions (2012), LionsXII (2013)

Favourite player: David De Gea


This article was first published on January 8, 2015.
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