VAN HUIZEN ON THE RISE
"He has very good qualities, fighting spirit, and an exquisite touch, and he showed it with that goal." — Fandi Ahmad (above) on Christopher van Huizen (below)
Christopher van Huizen's rise to fame has nothing short of meteoric.
And yesterday, in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final against Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDT II) at the Jalan Besar Stadium, he made another significant leap in his football career.
Coming on for the LionsXII as a 72nd-minute substitute for Faris Ramli, he picked up the ball from 20 metres out, cut in from the right flank and curled the ball past JDT II goalkeeper Anis Faron with his favoured left foot in the dying seconds of the game.
It was his first goal in a LionsXII shirt, and it completed a 2-0 win for Fandi Ahmad's side.
A jubilant van Huizen said: "When I came on, coach told me that he wanted a 3-0 win.
"So, in my head, I was just telling myself 'get a goal, get a goal'.
"I was blocked by the defender when I cut in, so I just wanted to curl it in like how I always do in practice.
"I always work really hard in training, and it's good to see it pay off by getting more playing opportunities."
The 22-year-old first garnered attention in 2013 when he made the final cut for Channel 5's football reality show, First XI.
He was picked up by Tampines Rovers a year later and played in the club's developmental side in the Prime League before being fast-tracked into the first team, making a handful of appearances for the S.League powerhouses.
The winger made such an impression that Fandi added him to the LionsXII roster this year.
Said Fandi: "Christopher is a fantastic player. From the Prime League to the Malaysia Super League, that's a big jump.
"But he has very good qualities, fighting spirit, and an exquisite touch, and he showed it with that goal."
The team's elder statesman, striker Khairul Amri, said van Huizen has a lot more to offer, adding: "When I first saw him in training, I knew this kid had bags of potential.
"But he needs more time to ease into the team and develop himself as a player. In a few years, I hope he'll be a regular, either in the LionsXII or for the national team."