Adam Swandi, Shahul Rayyan become first Singaporean footballers to join Albirex
Adam Swandi, Shahul Rayyan become first Singaporeans to join Albirex
Adam Swandi and Shahul Rayyan have made history by becoming the first Singaporean footballers to join Albirex Niigata's S.League squad.
Under the new S.League ruling, the Japanese side are allowed to sign two under-23 locals.
For 21-year-old Adam, the move to Albirex means he is a step closer to his dreams of playing in Japan.
He attributed the move to his good performance last season with Home United.
Said Adam: "It was a hard decision to leave Home because they have been good to me, and I have played some of my best football with them in the past two years.
"But, at the same time, it's very hard to say 'no' to an offer like this because Albirex are undoubtedly the best team in Singapore, winning two consecutive S.League titles.
"As a young player, I also need to step out of my comfort zone... and there's definitely a lot to learn from Japanese football and their culture."
Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga believes that the former teen prodigy, who had a two-year stint with French outfit FC Metz in 2013, will become a key player in their team.
At Albirex, Adam will be donning the No. 10 jersey, which is "usually reserved for the team's best attacking midfielder" in Japanese teams, said Korenaga.
Joining the White Swans could put him under the scrutiny of their parent club in Japan, who play in the J2 league.
Some of Albirex's alumni had earned moves to J1 and J2 leagues, after impressing in the S.League. They include 2016 Player of the Year Atsushi Kawata, Yasutaka Yanagi, Shuto Inaba, Takuya Akiyama, and last season's top scorer Tsubasa Sano.
But Albirex general manager Koh Mui Tee reminded the players that they have to prove themselves in the S.League first.
Koh said: "We can recommend players to our parent club and send videos of their performance for them to have a look. But it all depends on their performance."
The White Swans, who won back-to-back quadruples in the last two seasons, are known for their high work rate and tough regime, with training up to twice a day even during the season.
But Adam feels that although it might take a while to adjust to the new environment, he is eager to take on the challenge.
He said: "It's a totally new environment for me and Shahul, and there's a lot for us to learn, such as their playing style and culture."
Aware that language may be a barrier, he added: "As Singaporeans, we still need to learn Japanese to integrate with our teammates, coaches and the club on a whole, but it's just a matter of whether we are willing to do it."
Shahul, who will join the White Swans after he completes national service in May, is excited at the prospect of playing for the mainly under-23 side.
In goal, the 22-year-old will have a battle-hardened Yosuke Nozawa, 38, to look up to.
Shahul, who was recommended by coaches to Albirex, previously had spells with the Young Lions, Warriors FC and the amateur National Football League's Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association.
He said: "It is once in a lifetime to play with the Japanese, and they are the best (club) in Singapore.
"It's a great opportunity to better ourselves, so we'll definitely make full use of it and give our 100 per cent."