Sporting aptitude to the fore

Growing up, all he saw were trophies. The shiny, prized possessions however, did not belong to Hairul Syirhan Mardan but to his father, Singapore's most successful golfer, Mardan Mamat.

Now, having made his professional debut, Hairul is eager to add to the trophy count in his Jurong home despite plying his trade on turf different to the one on which his father has won numerous golf titles.

On Saturday, Hairul made his first appearance as a professional footballer. He was Geylang International's goalkeeper in their shock 3-1 win over defending champions Warriors FC in the S-League.

Mardan, the first golfer from Singapore to win a European Tour event, wanted his third son to play golf but Hairul fell in love with football when he was introduced to the sport as a Primary 2 pupil at Unity Primary School.

"I used to follow my dad whenever he competed in Singapore and I have seen him win many times but I never quite developed an interest in golf," admitted the 19-year-old. "My dad wanted me to play golf but my primary school did not offer golf as a co-curricular activity so I picked football and ever since then, I've always wanted to be a professional footballer."

Despite representing his schools in various zonal tournaments, Hairul was never in a championship-winning side.

His move to Geylang International came about in 2014 when he was spotted by then-Eagles assistant coach Mohd Noor Ali while he was keeping goal for Sporting Westlake in Division 1 of the National Football League (NFL).

Hairul then impressed the club's coaching staff and was signed by Geylang's Prime League squad for 2014.

After a stellar first season in the Prime League, where the Eagles finished third in the 11-team table, Hairul was promoted at the start of the current season into the S-League squad, where he currently fights it out with veteran Yazid Yasin for a starting berth. With one target secured, Hairul is moving on to the next one.

He said: "My goal was to make my debut in the S-League and now that I have achieved that, I want to work hard to earn a call-up to the national set-up or even the age-group national teams."

Mardan was delighted when he learnt of his son's debut and insisted that it did not matter that Hairul had not picked up golf as he had wished.

He said: "I will always encourage and support him as long as he does what he has a passion in.

"I never expected him to make his debut in the S-League at such a young age but he proved me wrong and he deserves it because I have been watching him work extremely hard. My advice to him now is that he must continue to work hard, follow his dreams and stay humble."

Working hard is a mantra that Hairul learnt from his father, even if his parent's sporting glossary differs widely from the one he is used to, such as diving saves and punching clear.

Hairul claims that he wakes up almost every morning to see his father doing yoga and that daily ritual is what inspires the young goalkeeper to give his all in training.

"My dad is really an inspiration to me because despite being so successful, he still maintains his discipline and fitness every day," said Hairul.

"On the training field, I always give my all and ensure that even though I may not play the sport he is famous for, I want to continue the sporting legacy in my family.

"People know my father but with hard work, I hope one day, I can make people remember my name too."

This article was first published on May 06, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.