Interview ● Jan 24, 2018

Discipline Key in Balancing School and Football

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Amirul Haikal, National Football Academy and Singapore Sports School graduate

 

There is no shortcut to success, as National Football Academy (NFA) graduate Amirul Haikal understands all too well. As a student-athlete, there were many occasions when he had to make a choice between school, football and personal time. But his dedication paid off when he received the news that he scored 41 points out of a possible 45 points for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme November 2017 Examinations.

The 19-year-old had an eventful two years in the lead-up to his IB examinations, juggling academics. playing in the Prime League – minimally one game per week – and representing Singapore at various age-group competitions.

In fact, while his peers at the Singapore Sports School were in midst of preparations for the examinations last November, Amirul postponed his Preliminary examinations in order to represent Singapore in the ASEAN Football Federation Under-18 Championship 2017, where he scored Singapore’s opening goal of the tournament in the match against Cambodia.

Singapore U18 National Team Starting XI against Cambodia on 4 September at the AFF U18 Championships (Bottom row, second from right: Amirul Hakim)

 

There was no hesitation in his reply when asked if it was difficult to manage both school and football.

“I had to sacrifice a lot of things like spending time with my family and friends. Every time my friends asked me out, I would have to say no because I needed to go home to study. If you ask my friends what I did, they‚Äôd say all I did was study.”

What kept him going was a clear goal – the Dollah Kassim Award, an annual award that recognises the worthiest NFA player who displays both footballing excellence and character.

It was with his sights set on the award that made Amirul push through even after he sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery in November 2016.

“The goal I set for myself was to be nominated for the Dollah Kassim Award. So I trained and studied hard and planned to improve myself. I couldn’t even do throw-ins [after the shoulder injury]. But when I wasn’t nominated for the Dollah Kassim Award in 2016, I decided to work even harder to prove myself worthy of the award in 2017.”

While the Award ultimately slipped by him, the right-winger has little regrets. With his stellar results and footballing experience in hand, Amirul has now set himself new goals.

“My goal now [before enlisting for National Service] is to train with the clubs and to gain as much experience as I can. I also applied for the PSC (Public Service Commission) Scholarship* and am hoping to pursue a career in teaching in future after football.”

He cites his parents and friends as his key support group throughout the trying times; and Singapore Sports School coach Donald Wan and Assistant Director, Sports Teng Wei Ken as key influences in his footballing journey.

Ken said: “Amirul joined Singapore Sports School in 2012 as one of our top picks for that year. In 2013, at 14 years old, he was the youngest player to be chosen for our Football Academy’s Excellence Trip to Omiya, Saitama, in Japan, for a training tour.

“Amirul had been a model of consistency in his time at Sports School. Besides showing very good footballing potential, his attitude, conduct and work ethics have always been off the top drawer. His successes both on the field as well as in his studies should be the prototype for all to follow. I cannot think of another player who is more affable and solid in character than Amirul. He has worked hard and deserves the successes that he has achieved. I wish him the best and hope to see him don national colours one day at the senior level.”

With maturity beyond his years, Amirul said: “If [other students] really want to pursue a career in football and balance it out with education achievements, then they should have a driven mindset and a lot of discipline to resist the temptations that may come their way. They also have to have a positive outlook because they have to know what they want in the future and be determined to achieve them.”

Amirul’s tenacity and drive for success sets a fine example for young players to aspire towards, especially as the League seeks to develop a stronger sense of professionalism among players and officials. His exemplary results both on and off the field proves that as long as one maintains a professional and disciplined mindset, success can be within reach.

The FAS congratulates Amirul on his results and wishes him the best for his tertiary education and football career.

The FAS also extends our heartiest congratulations to NFA graduate Ng Shao Han, Elliot who attained a score of 44 for his IB examinations.

Elliot, who graduated from St. Joseph’s Institution, represented Singapore in the AFF U18 Championship 2017 and Jockey Club International Youth Invitational Football Tournament 2017. Currently serving National Service, the midfielder has been offered the PSC scholarship and will be hoping to be able to pursue both football and academics concurrently.

 

* At time of interview, Amirul has not received confirmation on his application for the PSC scholarship.