Fazrul eyes a slice of S.League history
In nine months, Fazrul has gone from Sabah discard to the verge of being the S.League's first local-born top scorer
It was the farthest thing from his mind nine months ago, but this could just be the year Fazrul Nawaz makes Singapore football history.
Back in January, the striker's dream move to Malaysian Premier League outfit Sabah turned into a nightmare.
His contract was terminated in controversial fashion. He was forced to train on his own for almost three months before the green light was given in April for him to be signed by his former club Warriors FC.
The Singapore international has often expressed his gratitude for that lifeline, although he has already repaid them with his 14 goals in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League.
His goals are one reason third-placed Warriors remain in the running to retain the title, despite having the league's worst defensive record.
Furthermore, Fazrul, who leads the scorers' chart jointly with Balestier Khalsa's Miroslav Kristic and Brunei DPMM's Rafael Ramazotti, is also in contention to become the S.League's first local-born top scorer.
Naturalised citizens Aleksandar Duric, Mirko Grabovac and Egmar Goncalves are the only Singaporeans to have clinched the Golden Boot.
However, it is a different milestone Fazrul is aiming for come the end of the season: A record-extending 10th league crown for the Warriors.
"Of course, I'm very happy to be challenging for the top-scorer award, but the team come first," he told The New Paper.
TEAM OVER SELF
"The exciting thing is that we have a chance to retain the S.League title and I really want to win it for Warriors.
"It (his failed stint with Sabah) turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I just have to look at the positives."
Despite his deadly scoring form, Fazrul is not one to rest on his laurels.
As his teammates were cooling down after training at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, the 30-year-old did some extra finishing practice with fellow attacker Miroslav Pejic - despite his recent exertions with the national team.
Fazrul is quick to give credit to his influences, calling it "a privilege" to have watched the way Noh Alam Shah trained during his youth days with Sembawang Rangers, while also revealing he was "lucky to have a mentor like Aleksandar Duric" at Geylang International.
Warriors coach Alex Weaver also received praise.
Said Fazrul: "I have to thank him for adding another dimension to my game and keeping me focused on thinking of what's going to happen next during a game."
The Warriors boss believes it would be a big moment if his striker does go on to claim the Golden Boot.
Weaver added: "It would obviously be significant because of the history, but knowing Faz, there is no doubt he would take the league title over individual glory.
"But it would be a positive for Singapore football and the S.League and it goes to show there is talent here.
"It just needs to be nurtured."
I have to thank him for adding another dimension to my game and keeping me focused on thinking of what’s going to happen next during a game.
— Warriors striker Fazrul Nawaz, thanking club coach Alex Weaver
BY THE NUMBERS
Last season's Golden Boot winner Rodrigo Tosi bagged the award after scoring 24 goals in 26 games for Brunei DPMM. The Brazilian moved to Tampines Rovers this season.
They want the Golden Boot too
Balestier Khalsa have been known more for their excellent team spirit, work ethic and dogged defending than entertaining, free-flowing football.
This season, however, Tigers coach Marko Kraljevic has transformed them into a potent attacking outfit and they now boast the S.League's second-best attack, behind only Warriors FC.
A key factor has been the clinical form of Miroslav Kristic (above), who has scored 14 of Balestier's 32 goals this campaign.
The 25-year-old Serb's strike rate is even more impressive considering that his team employ two out-and-out forwards, with partner Robert Pericic weighing in with seven goals.
Nonetheless, Kristic refuses to be distracted by his Golden Boot chances and insists he is taking it one game as a time.
He told TNP: "In the last six games, I hope to score maybe five or six goals… I think that would be okay.
"It's just very important to win on Friday, then next Monday, and then the next game and so on.
"I've been working hard all season to be one of the top strikers in the league, but I think the biggest aim is for Balestier to finish in the top three."
Rafael Ramazotti, all 1.93m of him, has the imposing strength and aerial ability synonymous with target men.
But, being also blessed with silky skills and an eye for goal, it is easy to see why the 27-year-old (above) has been such an asset for Brunei DPMM this season.
Given his experience of playing in Portugal, Switzerland and Japan, big things were expected when the Bruneian outfit announced his signing at the start of the season.
It did not take long for Ramazotti to make an impact.
He scored a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Harimau Muda on the opening week of the season, and has not looked back since, chalking up 11 more goals.
"I'm happy (to score goals) because I can help the team in that way," the Brazilian told TNP earlier this season.
"The most important thing is that we win the league.
"If I end up becoming the top scorer as well, that's just something extra that will make me even happier."