Settled-down Amirul Adli's on the way up
Marriage has played a key role in earning Stags defender a national-team start in March
Tampines Rovers centre-back Amirul Adli had waited a long time for his first start with the national team.
In March, he finally got his wish after being recalled to the Lions' fold following a four-year absence. He started alongside Safuwan Baharudin in central defence against Malaysia and Oman in the AirMarine Cup.
It was a just reward for the 2018 Singapore Premier League Young Player of the Year nominee. This season, Amirul has picked up from where he left off, being one of the Stags' most consistent performers.
Amirul's secret behind his form? Marriage.
"Right now, I am more passionate about football and the drive to succeed is much more. (Being married) has made me a better player because I am now more aware of the responsibilities that I have," said the 23-year-old, who tied the knot with Nur Darina Kamal, 20, in February last year.
"My performances each time I play will reflect on the kind of future contracts and opportunities I get, be it local or overseas. Everything that I do now is more for my family than it was before."
Yesterday, Amirul celebrated Hari Raya with Darina, who is pursuing a diploma in business studies at the Universiti Teknologi Mara in Rembau, Malaysia.
The couple, who strive to meet at least twice a month, spent time with family and friends in Singapore yesterday at Amirul's family home in Yew Tee.
"She is always my moral support and always has the right things to say," said Amirul.
"It feels really good to be able to spend time with her and family before reporting back for training tomorrow."
Amirul spent last season playing in central midfield for the Stags, alongside fellow Lion Yasir Hanapi. This season, he has been shifted back to his favoured position, at the heart of the defence.
Stags' first-team coach Gavin Lee told TNP: "Amirul's best qualities are more suited for the defence line and he has showed that by being a key player in our set-up this season. He thoroughly deserves this call-up."
Sharing the locker room with experienced professionals, like former Lions Daniel Bennett and Fahrudin Mustafic at Tampines, has helped Amirul improve as well.
"The most important thing that I have learnt from them is their professionalism," he said.
"Playing beside Bennett, has made me more tactically aware on the pitch.
"And off it, emulating what they (Fahrudin and Bennett) do in terms of preparation, is what is going to be vital for my career. You can see that they really take care of themselves."
On Saturday, Amirul hopes to be named in new Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida's first starting line-up, when they take on Solomon Islands at the National Stadium.
It is the same venue in which Amirul, then 18, made his competitive debut as a substitute during the Lions' 3-1 loss to Malaysia in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.
It is a moment that still evokes a huge grin on his face.
He said: "I can remember it so vividly. I was the youngest in the squad at that time.
"I am an adult now and no longer a youngster. As a youngster, I could afford to make mistakes but, now, I want to start to make my mark."
- Singapore v Solomon Islands (7.30pm)
- Singapore v Myanmar (7.30pm)
Where: National Stadium