Faritz's form augurs well for Lions
Flying defender credits club for return to form
To think that just nine months ago, Faritz Hameed was overweight and unfit.
The 26-year-old fullback was a player transformed in the 0-0 draw with Malaysia in the Causeway Challenge on Friday, and it was an easy choice for The New Paper to name him as the Man of the Match.
Faritz made the right wing at the National Stadium his own, bombing upfield from his defensive position to add width and verve to Singapore's attack, while also staying solid at the back.
It has been a while since the Lions displayed such finesse going forward, and Faritz was a big reason for that.
"He has worked really hard since he's come on board with us," Geylang International assistant coach Noor Ali told TNP yesterday.
"He was upset when he was in and out of the national team, and he's been doing extra training on his own.
"He wanted really bad to get back into the national team and, on Friday night, he showed just how much he wants to stay there.
"What a game he had, he played like a young Kadir Yahaya.
"We've seen how hard he works in training and we hope he continues that way for Geylang."
Kadir was a former Singapore international right back who played alongside Fandi Ahmad and current Lions' boss, V Sundramoorthy.
Faritz knows better than anyone else that he has not had the best of times with the national team since 2013, drifting in and out of squads under former national coach Bernd Stange.
That is why he is grateful to Geylang for helping him to get back to his best, even as he put in extra hours of running in his own time.
"No one just wants to be in the national squad, we all want to be in the first 11 - and I'm the same. I know I've got to keep working hard," Faritz said before flying off with the national team to Hong Kong for another friendly on Tuesday.
"At the beginning of the season, my fitness wasn't great, and I knew I had to work on it," added Faritz, who thanked Noor and Geylang head coach Hasrin Jailani for their guidance.
"My strength is fitness but, if I can't go up and down the pitch, I won't be an asset to the team.
"I knew I had to get my weight down and get my fitness up.
"I'm grateful that Geylang gave me the platform to impress the national selectors."
Boosted by his performance against Malaysia on Friday, Faritz's immediate aim is to cement his place in the Lions' first 11 until the AFF Suzuki Cup next month.
National coach Sundram is hoping that the rejuvenated player can continue his rich vein of form.
"I watched the last few games that he played for Geylang. Even in training, he's put in similar performances. He looks like a different player now, and I'm surprised at how well he's doing," said Sundram.
"I didn't pick him to play (against Malaysia), he picked himself with his performances.
"He played great and I hope he can play like that week in, week out."