S'pore hero against Syria is team's only Chinese

He gets encouraging messages from Chinese fans, both young and old, on social media.

Also, Gabriel Quak’s father reminds his son to be a sterling example for all, given his unique position in local football.

And the 22-year-old LionsXII winger is well aware of his added responsibility towards Singapore football.

His stock has risen of late after scoring two international goals in three games, the latest coming in Singapore’s 2-1 win over Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Quak said: “There is definitely additional pressure to do well as the only Chinese player in the squad.

“We’ve got to be honest, football is a sport that’s dominated by Malays here, but I’ve also seen many good Chinese players who can play well, too.”

Quak, who won the Malaysian Super League with the LionsXII this season, is one of the few local-born Chinese professional football players in Singapore, and the only one in Bernd Stange’s current national squad.

MAINSTAYS

By contrast, national teams in the past used to boast mainstays such as Quah Kim Song, Leong Kok Fann, David Lee, and Lim Tong Hai. Quak points to the culture among Chinese parents, who prefer their children to focus on studies instead of sports, a battle he had first-hand experience in.

Said the Arsenal fan: “Football has been my passion from a very young age and since my parents couldn’t stop me, they became my number one fans instead.

“My dad also reminds me to set a good example on and off the pitch because I’m like a role model to the Chinese players here,” added Quak, whose extended family also gets all excited whenever he is due to feature for the Lions.

“It’s really pleasing to get messages on social media from Chinese parents that they are proud of me, and really young Chinese footballers telling me that they want to play football professionally like me.

“These messages spur me on as a player because I am a nobody; I am just a normal boy who loves his football, and scoring the winner against Syria doesn’t change anything.”

He credits Stange and national team trainer Harald Irmscher for upping his confidence through their faith in him, as well as the extra shooting drills they make him do after training.

Quak quipped: “Ultimately, the selection is up to the coach but I will give my 100 per cent, whether I play five or 90 minutes.

“I am a team player and I’d be happy if another player in my position does well because we all want to win for Singapore.

“It keeps us on our toes because I can be in the team today but out the next day. It’s something I constantly remind myself of, to prevent myself from side-tracking and slacking off.

“I will take nothing for granted.”

It’s really pleasing to get messages on social media from Chinese parents that they are proud of me.

 

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