End of the road for Latiff?
Tampines forward can't play in S-League after failing Beep Test. -TNP
With sweat trickling down from his forehead to his chin, Ahmad Latiff Khamaruddin picked up his running shoes, slipped into his flip-flops and walked out of the Woodlands Sports Hall.
"I think enough lah, bro," he told this reporter, panting.
"When you know you can't do (it), no point doing it."
Latiff, 32, one of three players still active in the S-League since the inaugural 1996 season, may be have played his last game in the local professional league.
The Tampines forward failed his Beep Test yesterday morning, rendering him ineligible to play in the S-League.
It was the last test date before the transfer and registration window closes today.
"Did you see my last game? That was my testimonial match," said Latiff, referring to the AFC Cup group match against Song Lam Nghe An last Tuesday.
"You should have seen my crosses, the diagonal passes," he added, with a grin.
Latiff didn't have to assure anyone.
The player, once labelled the "bad boy" of Singapore football for his constant run-ins with club and national-team authorities, can still play.
It was only five months ago that he helped Tampines to the S-League championship - scoring the winning goal in the penultimate game against title rivals Home United.
Soon after that, he received interest from Malaysian Premier League club Johor FA.
But Johor could not sign him because of the M-League's new foreigner rule, which states that ex-internationals must play at least a year abroad after being dropped from the national team.
This season, the forward has already featured in two AFC Cup matches for the Stags, playing the full 90 minutes in both.
And yet, the Beep monster continues to haunt him.
In more than 10 attempts this year, his best time was 11.12 - below the pass mark of 13.1 for S-League footballers.
To boost his fitness levels, his club arranged for him to train under Lions' fitness coach Aleksandar Bozenko over the past two weeks.
He clocked 11.9 yesterday.
"I can't pass this Beep Test, but I started and finished two AFC Cup games. So, am I unfit? I don't think my coach thinks I'm unfit," Latiff said.
His friend and former teammate, Aliff Shafaein, who passed earlier this month on his 10th attempt, was on hand to lend support.
He chimed in: "This test is not relevant to football. So many have people said this already.
"The pass mark is set too high. The Prime League players have a lower mark to clear (12.8). Does that make sense?
"With the IPPT, the older you are, the less you have to do to pass, right?"
Aliff cited Trinidad and Tobago youth international Akil DeFreitas, a foreign import whom his club Tanjong Pagar wanted to sign during pre-season, as another point to back up his argument.
"Look at Akil, he was a good player, but he couldn't pass the Beep Test and now he has signed for a club in Finland's top division.
"Do you think they sign unfit players in Europe?"
According to a report from Today newspaper yesterday, the S-League is looking into alternative tests that could be more appropriate for football from the 2013 season.
S-League CEO Lim Chin said that the league may make changes to the current system or use a different test.
An announcement will be made before the end of this season.
Tampines Rovers aren't giving up on Latiff yet.
Team manager Zulkarnaen Zainal said the club will still register the player and field him during the AFC Cup matches.
A rule change on Feb 22 meant that as long as a player has been registered by his club before the transfer window closes, he will be allowed to play any time he passes the test.
Meanwhile, Latiff is likely to continue training with Bozenko until he's ready to retake the test - which he or the club must now pay for.
It is believed that booking a Beep Test, which is conducted by the Singapore Sports Council, costs around $500.
When asked if he was still keen on playing in the S-League, Latiff smiled wryly before looking away. "See how lah, bro. Let's see what my club say," said Latiff.
"Otherwise, thank you and goodbye."
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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