Amirul wants more

He first came to prominence two years ago, when he was part of the Singapore Under-16 team that took part in the Canon Lion City Cup. In that tournament, Amirul Adli faced young stars from Europe and South America.

Now 18, Amirul was the youngest of five players who earned their first senior cap when the Lions beat Papua New Guinea (PNG) 2-1 in an international friendly at the Hougang Stadium on Saturday night.

It has been a whirlwind couple of years for the young defender, who is as driven as ever.

He came on at the start of the second half against a physically strong and bruising PNG side, and Amirul coped well.

The teenager is under no illusions, though, and understands he may not even taste any action tomorrow when Singapore plays a friendly with Hong Kong - also at Hougang Stadium - but at least he has his first taste playing for his country.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Amirul was still pinching himself.

He said: "When coach Aide (Iskandar) called me over (just before the substitution) my mind was ready, but at the same time I was nervous because the PNG team looked really physical and spirited.

"But I've dreamt of playing for the national team all my life and I wanted to make sure I didn't have a bad game.

"All the pressure went away after I entered the field.

"The senior players kept encouraging me so that gave me confidence."

Singapore assistant coach Aide Iskandar, who handled first-team affairs against PNG as head coach Bernd Stange continued his recovery from viral fever, felt it was the best time to field Amirul and see how he handled himself.

He said: "Afiq (Yunos) looked a little fatigued, maybe because of the Malaysia Cup tournament, so I thought it'd be a good opportunity to field Amirul, particularly alongside Baihakki (Khaizan).

"There was also Izwan (Mahbud, goalkeeper) behind him and Hariss (Harun) and Shahdan (Sulaiman) in front of him in midfield, so the experienced heads helped him a lot to grow in confidence."

Aide, who coaches Amirul in the Courts Young Lions side that plays in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, knew the youngster had it in him.

The coach has fielded him in 18 S.League games this season.

It probably also helped that Aide, who earned 121 caps during a playing career which saw him skipper the Lions, was a top-class defender in his day.

Said the 39-year-old: "Despite being just 18, Amirul has been playing well in the S.League.

"He has the attributes to be a very good central defender, mainly aggression and speed.


"He's definitely one for the future but he still has a long way to go."

Amirul, a first-year student in a Diploma in Business Administration course at Singapore Polytechnic, says it hasn't been easy for him to lead a double life of student by day and S.League footballer by night.

"These few months, I've really given everything I've had to training harder," he said.

"I have a very busy schedule with school, but I try to juggle everything.

"It's tough to wake up every morning, do schoolwork, and later rush down to training or games in the evening.

"It's very tiring but with Saturday's cap, it feels like everything has been worth it."

In typically determined fashion, Amirul is far from content.

His next goal?

To gain a physique that can help him overpower opponents.

"My main target is to focus on the physical aspect of my game," he said.

"This season, I've played against players who are much older and stronger than me.

"So I want to get bigger, stronger and faster than them.

"Running and working out is easy, but eating the right food is difficult, especially because I'm a student.

"But I'll do everything I need to try and achieve it."

This article was first published on September 8th, 2014.
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