S-League: 'I have nothing to prove to critics'

SINGAPORE - He last donned the national jersey during Singapore's ill-fated Suzuki Cup campaign in 2010.

Precious Emuejeraye has spent more than four years plying his trade away from these shores, bouncing around clubs in Indonesia.

But the hulking 30-year-old centre-back is back in the S-League this season, as part of title hopefuls Home United.

Emuejeraye insists he has nothing to prove to his critics, who think he can no longer cut it at one of the giants of Singapore club football.

"If I was finished, I wouldn't have been playing in Indonesia for the past few years," the 1.88m-tall Emuejeraye told The New Paper on Wednesday.

"There, I was playing as a foreigner and expectations on me are higher.

"And every club I played at, I was in the first team. You can check.

"Now, coming back, I don't have to prove anything. I just want to play my normal game."

The Nigerian-born defender, who took up citizenship under the Foreign Talent Scheme in 2005, has been dreaming of a another chance to add to his 56 caps for Singapore.


Often made a scapegoat for the Lions' defensive failings in the past, he was one of a number of senior players axed by then national coach Raddy Avramovic in the wake of the 2010 Suzuki Cup performance.

Despite the emergence of young defenders Safuwan Baharudin and Afiq Yunos, Emuejeraye feels he can still contribute to Bernd Stange's national team.

Said the former Gombak United and Woodlands Wellington player: "If the new national coach sees me playing for Home United and sees one or two things he likes, then of course I would love to play again for the national team.

"Every player wants to represent his country and I am no different."

After his contract with Indonesian Super League side Persidafon Dafonsoro expired last November, Emuejeraye returned to Singapore.

He spent his time with his family -he is married with two sons aged 19 months and three, and a seven-year-old daughter - and kept himself fit, while on the lookout for offers.

Emuejeraye admitted he was "very lucky" to get a contract with last year's RHB Singapore Cup champions Home.

He decided to go to Jalan Besar Stadium last week to "say hi" to Football Association of Singapore (FAS) officials when he saw the Protectors training there.

He asked Home assistant coach Aidil Shahrin, whom he knew during his playing days, if he could train with the team to keep fit.

Protectors' head coach Lee Lim Saeng agreed.

After seeing Emuejeraye up-close for a few sessions, the South Korean decided to offer him a one-year deal.

The former South Korean international defender said: "I saw him for the first time five or six days ago... after he trained with us I could see he was a very experienced defender and had good positioning.

"I talked to him about the professionalism I expected from my players, and he fully agreed with me.

"I hope we can enjoy success together this season and I think he can help our defence.

"But he hasn't trained a lot with the team, so he needs time to get used to being a part of the team."

Emuejeraye, who has never tasted silverware during his eight years as an S-League player from 2002 to 2009, is delighted to finally be at a club that will challenge for honours.

"I hope to do my best to help the team this season," he said.

"Home United are a big team with a lot of expectations.

"I'm really honoured to be a part of the club, and hopefully, I can win something with them."


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