IT WAS the National Schools A Division football final last May.
With the score locked at 0-0, things were not looking rosy for favourites Meridian Junior College (MJC).
For 30 minutes, the defending champions just couldn’t find a way to break down the stubborn St Andrew’s Junior College.
Then, to thunderous applause from the stands, Mohd Amsyar Omar Abdullah made his appearance as a substitute, despite an injured shoulder.
What an impact he made. The MJC striker netted two goals in the space of five minutes, won his team their fifth title, and bagged the Man of the Match award in the process.
Deservingly, his feat of scoring his first goals at the Jalan Besar Stadium also earned the 19-year-old a nomination for The New Paper’s School Sports Star Award brought to you by H-TWO-O.
Said Amsyar: “This being my final year, I was desperate to leave an impression on my school.
“The reception I got from the crowd was really heartwarming. I never knew the extent of the support I had until then.
“Before I came on, I told myself that I couldn’t let down the school. So, I went out and gave everything I had.”
Just weeks before, Amsyar had badly bruised his shoulder during the semi-final match against Anglo-Chinese Junior College, and he only managed to make the final after intensive physiotherapy.
It wasn’t the first time had saved his team.
In last year’s final, his team’s goalkeeper Daniel Lightfoot was sent off in the second half.
Recalled Amsyar: “Everyone was in shock and Daniel was walking off the pitch crying.”
With the reserve goalkeeper not feeling well, vice-captain Amsyar volunteered to don the gloves.
Despite playing in an unfamiliar position, he helped MJC win the final 1-0.
After his heroics, his teammates have jokingly called him “the legend” and “superstar”.
Team captain Mohd Naufal Nur Hakim said: “If there’s one thing about Amsyar, it’s that he’s really a fighter.”
His coach, former S-League player Fabio da Silva, said: “Amsyar has been a very good example. He never misses training, he is never late, and he does his own training (outside of the team’s schedule).
“I can see great desire in his heart to become a good footballer.”
However, Amsyar chooses to stay grounded.
“I’m no hero, I’m just a boy who wants to play football,” he said. “To be honest, I can’t be singled out for any praise. It’s a team game, and my teammates helped me as much as I helped them.”
Growing up, Amsyar was surrounded by a sporting family.
His sister, Nur Amelia, plays netball and was a nominee of the TNP Award last year.
His father and grandfather were amateur footballers, and it was his dad who introduced him to the sport when he was six.
His uncle, Syed Othman, was a former teammates of football legend Fandi Ahmad. In fact, Amsyar has a picture of Fandi holding him as a toddler.
However, Amsyar’s career wasn’t all smooth sailing.
In 2010, he was close to registering for the National Football Academy Under-17 team, but had to pull out due to his parent’s objections.
He said: “My parents and I had a discussion, and they were worried (about my studies). So I had to give that up.”
His parents’ concern was not unjustified.
When he entered MJC, the former Victoria School student admitted to facing a “culture shock” and he failed his First Year.
But that only made Amsyar more determined to succeed.
To concentrate on his studies, Amsyar declined to join Nike’s The Chance talent search competition this year. He also declined an offer to join Hougang United’s Prime League squad.
Besides his love for football, the Manchester United fan also has a penchant for all things wild.
He explained why his non-football role model is the late wildlife expert Steve Irwin: “I learnt a lot from him, and watching his show really inspired me to be more interested in the topic.
“Hopefully, after my A Levels, I can do some volunteer work at Acres (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society)or the Singapore Zoo.”