Hafiz goes for Thai audition
Tampines give blessings to Lions star for audition at Sisaket FC and Big Bang Chula United
Hassan Sunny may be leaving the Thai Premier League (TPL) after his contract with Army United was cancelled, but Singapore may yet have a representative in Thai football when the 2017 season kicks off.
Hafiz Abu Sujad left for Thailand yesterday for a week-long trial with two clubs - TPL side Sisaket FC and Big Bang Chula United (BBCU) who ply their trade in the Thai second tier.
The 26-year-old has already committed his future to Tampines Rovers, but he left for Thailand with the blessings of the Stags.
Tampines had also allowed Hassan to go for trials with Army United in January 2015, leaving the door open for him to return should he fail the audition.
And they are giving Hafiz the same treatment.
"As a club, we have historically always supported the professional advancement of our players," said Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra.
"So although we have just signed Hafiz for another year, this is an important break for him and we all hope he gets an offer.
"I do not want to lose him for the 2017 season but, in the longer term, this would be great for his career. It will raise his game to the next level and, ultimately, this will be great for Singapore football."
A rule change in Thai football could work in Hafiz's favour.
He was one of the most consistent performers in the S.League last season, and that has not gone unnoticed.Abdul Halim, the managing director of Offside Sports Management, on Hafiz Abu Sujad
Starting in 2017, Thai football authorities will introduce an Asean player slot for teams in its second-tier clubs, with the TPL adopting the change the following year.
This means clubs will be able to sign three foreign players, an Asian player and now, an Asean player.
Abdul Halim, the managing director of Offside Sports Management, helped arrange Hafiz's trials with the two Thai clubs, and he is confident that the left-footed player can make an impression.
"He was one of the most consistent performers in the S.League last season, and that has not gone unnoticed," Halim told The New Paper.
Hafiz was the only Singaporean in the list of nominees for the S.League's Player of the Year award, alongside Atsushi Kawata from champions Albirex Niigata, Hougang United's Fumiya Kogure and Home United's Danish striker Ken Ilso.
The award went to Kawata.
Hafiz was hoping to put himself in the shop window at the recently concluded Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, but it did not go according to plan.
Hafiz's involvement lasted all of 34 minutes.
As he turned to try to control a bouncing ball in Singapore's opening fixture against the Philippines, Hafiz raised his left leg high and caught Phil Younghusband coming in from his blind side.
He was given a straight red card and, with Singapore failing to survive the group stages, the midfielder did not see further action in the biennial tournament.
Despite what will go down as a poor tournament for Hafiz, Halim remained hopeful that Sisaket and BBCU will be impressed once they take a closer look at him.
"I'm confident that with Hafiz's ability and experience, he can be an asset," said Halim."There are a few clubs who are looking for a player with his qualities."