The rise and rise of Maududi
Fleet-footed midfielder has gone from fringe player to key personnel in 12 months
BRUNEI DPMM v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Saturday, 8.15pm, Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium)
This time last year, Maududi Hilmi was a fringe player in Brunei DPMM's ranks, patiently waiting for a chance to prove his worth.
Fast forward 12 months and he is now a valuable player for the reigning Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions.
It has been a remarkable rise for the fleet-footed midfielder.
He first made his mark nailing down a starting berth on the wings and, this year, he has been handed even more responsibility by coach Steve Kean, rotating with Paulo Sergio and Azwan Ali as the main playmaker operating behind striker Rafael Ramazotti.
Now 27, Maududi looks back at 2015 as the year in which his career as a professional footballer really took flight.
Nonetheless, all that is in the past now as he looks forward to helping his team to more success this season.
"Firstly, I have to thank coach (Kean) for having given me the chance," he told The New Paper.
"It was a really important moment in my career to be involved as a first-team player with the first Bruneian side to become champions of the S.League. It's true that winning the league is tough, but defending the title is even tougher.
"Even though we only have three foreigners this year (compared to five in 2015), the team still believe that we can win the S.League again.
BETTER AND BETTER
"After our opening defeat (by Albirex Niigata), the team have been getting better and better.
"Now that we have reached a good standard, we can work towards maintaining some momentum."
While Maududi is blessed with a lightning turn of pace, excellent technique and an eye for the odd goal, Kean reveals that he earned his spot in the team because of the way he applies himself on the training ground every day.
"He's a quality player and he showed that all throughout last season, even initially when he was coming off the bench," said the former Blackburn Rovers manager.
"He has an excellent work ethic even in training and, when his opportunity arrived, he grabbed it with both hands.
"So he really deserves his place in the team.
"The good thing this year is that we have three really good players, in Maududi, Azwan and Sergio, who are all comfortable either in a wide position or as the No. 10 behind Ramazotti.
"With the way we're playing, I'm letting the three of them rotate among themselves, and it just gives the opposition defence a lot more questions to answer."
The next team that will have to figure out a way to stymie DPMM's free-flowing attack, who have netted eight goals in five games, are Tampines Rovers at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Brunei on Saturday.
Having bounced back from their opening-day defeat by Albirex with two wins and two draws, DPMM will now be looking to build some form in their second of five straight home matches.
Kean added: "Since the loss to Albirex, we've played well and we've now shown that, even with a slow start, we can pick it up and get the result.
"I said from day one this season is going to be more competitive and we've seen that from all the draws early on.
"I expect us to be up there challenging, but I think Tampines will also be up there.
"So this will be a really good test."