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From Buds To Professional Footballers

Lessons From Professional Footballers

Standing at 139cm, he was the tiniest in Football Academy’s inaugural batch of student-athletes when Singapore Sports School started in 2004. However, that only made his talent stand out more. Once granted special admission into Sports School, Muhammad Safuwan Baharudin has risen to become one of Singapore’s top footballers.

Safuwan, who is currently playing for Malaysian Super League runner-up Pahang FA, returned to his alma mater on 3 May 2019 during his short break in Singapore. Speaking to his juniors, the 183cm-tall Safuwan shared about how he grew in stature at Sports School – as a footballer, a student, in maturity and, of course, in height.

Unlike some of his teammates, the defender was not born privileged. Studying in Singapore Sports School would have remained a dream for Safuwan if not for financial support from the school. He was also far from being a top academic scorer. But what he did have, and made full use of, was his talent.

With food and nutrition fit for a champion provided at Sports School, Safuwan grew physically. With patience and dedication from teachers, he improved in his studies and was able to keep up with his peers in the Normal Academic stream who were stronger academically.

With the technical skills and ability refined through the coaching and opportunities at Sports School, and the discipline acquired, he soon broke into the Young Lions, then LionsXII, representing Singapore at three editions of the Southeast Asian Games – winning 2 bronze medals, and the Incheon 2014 Asian Games, before earning a professional loan contract with Melbourne City FC in 2015.

The 2013 Straits Times of the Year Award winner encouraged his Football Academy juniors to remain focused on their goal, continue working hard to be the best they can be, and to never lose hope. Despite being among the weakest in his cohort academically, the commitment of his teachers spurred Safuwan to study hard. He completed his studies at the Institute of Technical Education in 2009 and before making football his career.

Several Football Academy student-athletes also had the privilege of meeting Egyptian footballer Mohamed Abdullah Zidan a week before on 25 April. The retired footballer also came from a less-than-privileged family. Likewise, he shared that it was sheer hard work, discipline and focus on the goal that helped him break into the professional world of football.

“Hearing from Mohamed Abdullah Zidan, a professional footballer who has been through many hardships to get to where he was, was very meaningful, inspiring and has taught me many things. He told us about how he managed to get from playing in the streets of Egypt to playing professionally in known clubs in the Bundesliga such as Borussia Dortmund,” said Secondary 4 footballer Ong Yu En who attended the session organised by Football Association of Singapore and Sports School.

“Zidan shared that it was focus and hard work that helped him in his journey. He had to block out all the other distractions along the way such as going to clubs. He also reminded us that smoking is detrimental to an athlete’s career and that ill-discipline will ruin our chances at being successful. Despite being a celebrity of sorts, Zidan’s humility was evident. He spoke to us with respect and without arrogance. I realised that being humble and constantly seeking improvement, even when one has achieved success, is essential to sustaining success.”