The Unofficial Hougang United FC Supporters Blog

Friday, October 5, 2012

He needs extra time

Story reproduced from NTU’s magazine, HEY!
He needs extra time
Photo: NTU
SINGAPORE - This guy wishes there were 25 hours in a day. Then he can squeeze in a little more work, a little more planning, a little more thinking.

That extra hour could either give him the chance to finish his university assignment or map out his strategy against his professional football club's opponent in an upcoming match. Or finalise his thoughts on what to tell the boys he coaches.

For Syaqir Sulaiman, leisure is a dirty word.

This constant race against time is being run with one mission: to prove to his dad that he can make it in life.

Says the third-year Sport Science & Management undergraduate: "If I want to be a footballer, I have to first show him that I can do well in my studies."

When he was a teenager, he had overheard his parents discussing how he was the least likely of three siblings to make it to university. The words hit home like a red card.

That day, he scribbled a note on the inside of his cupboard: "You can do it. I'm going to prove abah (Malay for 'father') wrong."

Fast forward to 2012. Syaqir, 26, is hastily scribbling the final answers in an examination hall. The whistle blows for full-time, and even as his peers huddle to discuss the test, Syaqir has zipped off for another - one that begins in less than an hour.

Dribbling his way through peak-hour traffic from the bright lights of the exam hall to the spotlights of Hougang Stadium, he must again overcome Father Time: in one split-second on the football pitch, he must decide whether to commit to the challenge or stand his ground.

He goes for the jugular and wins the ball. The Hougang United fans roar their approval for the strapping 1.78-metre tall athlete who can play as a centre-back or defensive midfielder.

Syaqir gets no such adulation in school, where he keeps a low profile. But in the local, professional S League, he attracts attention from teammates who tease him for "being too clever for football".

After all, as one who juggles full-time studies and professional football, Syaqir is a rarity in the league.

During one of his earliest training sessions with Hougang, he was asked to lead the warm-up as "the sports professor". It may have been a joke but it was a fitting one given that Syaqir is also a coach to young footballers from Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) and Anglo-Chinese School (Junior).

He guides the boys two to three times a week, using science to back up his approach.

For instance, from his NTU module on sports psychology, he learnt how to handle people from different age groups. "Youngsters have short attention spans, so I let them play training matches or work with them on the basics like passing. Learning is more fun this way," he says.

The extra income he gets from his passion lets him "help with the family expenses" and pays part of his university tuition fees and second-hand car.

The car is his steadfast ally in tackling time when he must rush from club training sessions at Hougang Stadium - held in the evenings five times a week - to school ones at NTU.

Yet, despite his busy schedule, which includes five modules this semester, he is a committed member of the NTU football team.

There, he wears the no.7 jersey, like his hero David Beckham used to. But he is no prima donna. Despite being a professional footballer, he still tries his best to be at every campus training session.

Back on home ground, he chats with his parents after a long day out balancing football and school. He explains: "I don't want them to think I treat the house like a hotel where I just come home to sleep."

His day then enters extra-time. He puts what little time he has left to good use by spending 30 to 45 minutes each night recapping the day's lessons. "You shouldn't have this mindset that you will do your readings later - you will just keep on procrastinating," he says.

Good results are vital because he knows he cannot play football forever. Once he hangs up his boots at "around 31 or 32", his goal is to hold court in a school field. "I love teaching. I get a sense of satisfaction, be it from teaching others to play football or other sports. If my students are happy, I'm happy."

And his winning goal? To start a company to provide underprivileged kids with football coaching, something he couldn't afford as a child.

Then, his life would have come full circle. Ole, ole, ole…(SOURCE)

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