Football: Faris not dodging 'bullets'

Football: Faris not dodging 'bullets'
Faris Ramli (third from left, in a LionsXII training session) wants to banish the pain of not doing well in the SEA Games and end the Malaysia Super League season on a high note.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

With a blinding burst of speed and then a deft flick, Faris Ramli transformed Bukit Jalil National Stadium from a noisy arena to a quiet library.

That was on May 23, six minutes into the Malaysia FA Cup final against Kelantan.

Then, the LionsXII winger's opening goal silenced the vociferous Kelantan fans who made up the majority of a 90,000- strong crowd in Kuala Lumpur.

The LionsXII went on to win 3-1, clinching a historic first FA Cup.

Faris was lauded for his sterling contributions as more than 2,000 fans welcomed the players back at Changi Airport the next day.

But just 19 days later, the praises turned into scathing criticism, as the 22-year-old failed to reproduce his best football for the Singapore Under-23 team that crashed out in the group stages at the SEA Games.

Yesterday, as he and the LionsXII prepare to take on Felda United in this evening's Malaysia Super League (MSL) match at the Jalan Besar Stadium, he reflected on a tumultuous past few months when he was portrayed as both a hero and villain of Singapore football.

"I have gone through a lot, both good and bad this year, but to mature as a player, you have to accept both the positives and negatives," he said.

"I am always looking to get advice from senior players and the coaches. I am still young and still learning as much as I can.

"At the end of the day, people will judge if I have matured and all but what I can do is to keep working hard in training and try to improve as much as I can."

He wants to put the disappointment of the Games behind him and finish strongly with the LionsXII.

With the MSL approaching its final sprint, with seven matches left, he is currently the LionsXII's top scorer with five goals in the league and seven in all competitions.

It is a surprise improvement from a player who was previously known only for his silky dribbling abilities.

And as he becomes a marked player among the opposing defences, Faris is trying to deal with the additional physical intimidation from the defenders.

"There certainly has been more attention," admitted the 59kg, 1.6m-tall player, who counts national team captain Shahril Ishak as his football hero.

"The defenders in the MSL now know what I am capable of and they try to close me down as fast as possible," he noted.

"I know I am now one of those the opposition watch closely but that only means that I have to work harder and give them more surprises."

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is certainly happy with how his stalwart has progressed this year.

"Faris has done well and one thing you get from him is his ability to run at defenders and create chances for the team," he said.

"This year, his goals have helped the team and now he has recovered from his injuries and fatigue.

"I hope he will be a key player for us in our remaining games."

Fandi is eager to ensure that the LionsXII get a win tonight against Felda, who have two more points than LionsXII's 23 in the league.

Pahang are leading the MSL with 36 points after beating Sime Darby 4-2 last night.

"We have tough games coming up so everybody needs to focus and I hope we can get a good result," Fandi said. "Felda will be a tough game, they have speedy players who can hurt us, so we have to be careful."

This article was first published on August 2, 2015.
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