The next big thing

FACTFILE

Name: Zharfan Rohaizad

Date of birth: Feb 21, 1997

Height: 1.80m

Weight: 80kg

Favourite player: Peter Schmeichel

Favourite food: Stingray Assam Pedas

Pet peeve: Arrogance

When they first saw him, none of the LionsXII players believed Zharfan Rohaizad was 16.

Standing at an imposing 1.80m, it was no surprise the goalkeeper caught the eye when he was drafted into the team as cover for the team's recent training camp in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

When The New Paper asked the LionsXII No. 1 and national custodian Izwan Mahbud yesterday what he thought of the youngster, he replied with a grin: "Zharfan? Big!"

Zharfan is used to the reaction.

"During last week's tour, Faritz (Hameed, LionsXII defender) asked me if I was really 16," he said.

"The rest of the team couldn't believe it, too."

Zharfan attributes his stature to good genes - his father is a former bodybuilder - and gym work, which he started about two years ago.

While his size is getting him some attention, his goalkeeping ability is what's turning heads.

Already, he has impressed the LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad and goalkeeper coach Lee Bee Seng.

Said Fandi: "He has good size, very good potential... He trains very hard and I think he can go far if he keeps up this attitude."

SPECIAL

National goalkeeper coach Lee, who has groomed the likes of Lionel Lewis, Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud over the past 11 years, said he first noticed Zharfan when he kept goal for the national Under-16 team at last year's Canon Lion City Cup tournament.

He gave the youngster a glowing report card after the Indonesia trip.

"Zharfan has got that something special," said the 61-year-old former Singapore international.

"He's got quality, a good attitude in training and a good kick for a 16-year-old.If he continues like this and has no injuries, I think he can even make the SEA (South-east Asia) Games team next year."

"Even if he doesn't, he will be our No. 1 for the 2017 and 2019 tournaments, if he continues to work hard."

Despite the growing excitement surrounding him, the shot-stopper, who will play for the National Football Academy Under-17 side in the Prime League this year, is not getting carried away.

"My only goal now is just to train as hard as I can to get into the SEA Games team next year."

A week before the LionsXII's trip to Indonesia, Fandi called him and asked him to pack his bags and join the squad.

Zharfan recalled he was shocked, excited and nervous, all at the same time.

"My first thought was whether I'd be able to fit in with the other players because of the age difference," he recalled.

"I don't know any of them and many of them are (established) internationals.My roommate, Sufian Anuar, was born in 1987. I was born in 1997!"

Even after his initial shyness disappeared, he had to deal with the notoriously-maniacal Indonesian fans.

"When we were warming up, there was a lot of jeering from the fans and stuff being thrown from the stands," said Zharfan.

"I couldn't really focus because I was worried a bottle or something would hit me.

"But seeing Izwan deal with the atmosphere helped me... I mean, I've been watching him and the LionsXII from the stands for the past two years."

"It was a great opportunity to learn from him."


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