Safuwan: I hope I've impressed Melbourne City
Singapore star defender Safuwan Baharudin believes he gave it everything during a recent 10-day trial with Melbourne City and hopes it will be enough to earn him a professional contract with the A-League side in the not-too-distant future.
The LionsXII centre back had joined the Australian club on their mid-season tour of Abu Dhabi and performed well in two friendlies against Al-Jazira and Dnipro.
He left the Middle East with the Melbourne team on Monday, but not before talking about his experience and thoughts of the stint.
"I've definitely learnt a lot from the players and coaches here. Hopefully I have done enough to make them keep me in their thoughts and on their radar," the stylish 23-year-old defender told a reporter for the Football Association of Singapore website.
"The club play a high-intensity passing game, while the players are physically bigger and stronger. They are also comfortable on the ball even under pressure. And they are faster on and off the ball even with their size.
"All this meant that I had to change my mindset and my game to show I could compete.
"I have had to be mentally strong to push myself to keep pace with them and not show any signs of discomfort or being out of place in training.
"I have been pushing myself every single training session here. In turn, I feel that I have grown in many ways as a player."
In the 2-0 defeat by local side Al-Jazira on Jan 11, Safuwan played for almost 70 minutes and was up against Mirko Vucinic, a wily 31-year-old who was part of the Juventus team who won three Serie A titles in his three seasons with the Turin giants.
He coped admirably, winning aerial duels against the Montenegrin and chalking up a high pass completion rate.
In the 1-1 draw against Ukrainian Premier League runners-up Dnipro, Safuwan came on for the injured Rob Wielaert after just 15 minutes and duly settled down in the right-back position, even going on overlapping runs and delivering some dangerous crosses.
"To be very honest, I was shocked when I was named for the first 11 against Al-Jazira," recalled Safuwan.
"I wasn't nervous about the game, but I was nervous about ensuring that I kept to the team's style of play and that I was always part of the team's shape.
"I was constantly watching myself to make sure that my positioning was always according to the coaches' tactical plans."
Safuwan tasted what training at a high level was like during his short time with the Aussie side.
He said: "Even something like getting used to a new diet has been a learning experience for me mentally.
"The food that I have been so used to back in Singapore - you don't get it here at the club. It's all pasta and steak and I have to be strict about my diet, no cheating on junk food!
"I have now experienced what it is like being away... and having to work with a different set of players and coaches.
"I feel that this stint of being out of my comfort zone has made me stronger mentally and physically.
"I have been motivated and determined to prove to others that I am able to compete with the players here and also be able to adapt to them within a short period of time.
"In the end, it is not just your footballing abilities that can bring you far, it's also about how disciplined you are on and off the pitch."