Afiq Yunos sees the positives despite early end to Thai stint
Defender terminates Trat contract by mutual agreement
His playing stint in Thailand may have ended after just two months, but Afiq Yunos sees it as a "blessing in disguise".
The Singaporean defender joined top-flight Thai outfit Trat FC on a season-long loan from Singapore Premier League (SPL) side Hougang United in February.
But Afiq and his family have returned to Singapore, after he terminated his contract with the club by mutual agreement.
He is now serving a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at Hotel Jen Orchardgateway, along with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
On Tuesday, the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) had proposed a 50 per cent wage reduction for all players in the top two tiers of the Thai League.
A sharp decline in TV rights and sponsorship revenue, due to the coronavirus crisis, had prompted the FAT to implement tough measures to ensure the clubs' survival.
"Honestly, before all the wage talk, our families back home were very worried about our safety, especially my wife and daughter's," Afiq, 29, told The New Paper.
"Considering the Covid-19 outbreak, Trat was definitely not a safe place. Everyone was still out on the streets... Besides, Singapore's medical (care) is definitely the best.
"So, when my (team) manager called to ask if I would stay on while taking a 50 per cent pay cut... or if I preferred to get my contract terminated, it didn't take me long to decide.
"We agreed on a mutual termination, a compensation fee (of a full month's salary) was given and Trat paid for our flight home.
"So, it's actually a win-win situation for everyone and a blessing in disguise."
Asean players in the Thai League usually command a monthly salary of more than US$8,000 (S$11,400), along with accommodation and a car.
Looking ahead, the defender, who served Day 6 of his SHN yesterday, is hoping to rejoin Hougang.
He said: "We are hoping to hear news of the resumption of the SPL, then Hougang can start finding ways of getting me back."
Cheetahs coach Clement Teo said: "I've been in touch with Afiq, but we will discuss more (about) his situation once he finishes his SHN."
For now, Afiq can look back at his short-lived but fruitful sojourn, as he counts down to returning to his family home in Bukit Panjang.
"It was a great experience for me," he said.
"Although it was pretty short, training was very intense with only one day off in two weeks... I've gained new memories, new friends."
This experience has not given him a reason to close the chapter on playing abroad.
"If the Covid-19 situation gets better, I would really consider," he said.
Also giving much thought to his future in recent days was national goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, Afiq's teammate at Trat.
The 29-year-old was also told to take a 50 per cent pay cut and, on Tuesday, Izwan decided that he will continue playing in the region's top league.
"Ideally, as players, we would want to keep our full wages, but this situation has never happened in football before, so we had to adapt to the circumstances," Izwan told TNP.
"I'm grateful that I'm still able to earn a salary, despite no games or training at this time."
He is planning to return to Singapore soon, before joining up with Trat in August for their second pre-season training, as the Thai League is likely to resume only in September.
The other Singaporean footballers playing in Thailand are BG Pathum United defender Irfan Fandi, Suphanburi FC midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin and veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan, who turns out for PT Prachuap.
Baihakki is still in talks with his club and Irfan has yet to hear from his team's management about the wage revision.
Zulfahmi, meanwhile, would only say that he will remain with Suphanburi.