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Grooming The Safe Hands is Now Rizal's Role ...

Rizal is now part of Tanjong Pagar United's coaching panel
Rizal is now part of Tanjong Pagar United's
coaching panel

Rizal Rahman is the reason why I decided to take up football photography.

I still remember that day we met for the first time face to face at a fast food outlet near the National Stadium when he asked if I have pictures from his playing days.

Which, unfortunately, I had none as I had yet to start taking match photos back then and I could sense the disappointment which I thought was probably a good time to venture into something that was alien to me.

The following repurposed content is the feature on the former Balestier Khalsa goalkeeper which was first published on 23rd April 2009 in a Q&A format.

Additional details were added to this blog post recently to give an update on the ex-national youth goalkeeper.

FROM THE VOID DECKS

Like many Singapore boys, Rizal started playing football in void decks of HDB (Housing Development Board) residential blocks.

As the primary school where he studied did not have a football team, Rizal started off by playing for the youth team of Tampines Rovers Sports Club.

He got his break in 1992 after a stellar performance against the elite squad of Milo Soccer School in a tournament organized by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).

Rizal represented Singapore Combined
School Football Team (provided by Rizal)

Despite losing the match to a squad that comprised the likes of Indra Sahdan Daud and Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin, Rizal's performance was enough to convince the elite squad coaches - Cikgu Samsuri and Cikgu Latiff to approach him to join the famed setup that nurtured a number of Singapore national players.

CROSS OVER BRADDELL ROAD BACK AND FRO

"From then onwards, I went to play for Home United Prime League squad in 1998 after representing Singapore U19 in the Asian Youth Championship in Johor Bahru." recalled Rizal on his playing journey.

After playing for the Protectors Prime League for a season, Rizal moved south and crossed over to the other side of Braddell Road when he joined Balestier Central in 1999.

Since then, his football career in the top-flight was alternated between these two central-based clubs during the period that ended in 2006 - the year he hung up his gloves.

Rizal (in blue) with his Home United mates in 2004 (provided by Rizal)
Rizal (in blue) with his Home United mates in a 2004 AFC Cup outing (provided by Rizal)

Apart from playing for SAFSA in the National Football League (NFL) while serving his National Service, Rizal manned the last line of Tigers' defence on three separate occasions (1999-2000 for Balestier Central, 2001-2003, 2005-2006 for Balestier Khalsa).

In between, he returned to Bishan Stadium to play for Home United in season 2004.

TOUGH TRANSITION PERIOD

That meeting with him in 2009 took place after we added each other on Facebook, and I am always interested to find out from former players like Rizal how they transited themselves from professional footballers to a new working environment, and what sort of challenges they faced.

"It was very difficult then, as I did not have any prior working experience other than being a professional footballer," recalled Rizal on that daunting period of his career transition.

"But I am glad that my new colleagues were helpful by giving me all the encouragement, and also the pressure to perform well eventually see I fitted into my new career."

Like many before and after him, injury and job security were the two main reasons that prompted Rizal to plan the chapter of his life.

"Both reasons contributed to my decision (back to make the career switch)" he revealed.

"First, (it) was when I injured my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament ) in during a match against Tampines Rovers,

"Even though I recovered from that injury, I thought I would like to opt for a stable career path given the history of that ACL injury, so with one of my teammates we decided to make the jump into the aviation industry."

Rizal, circled, with his Balestier mates
(provided by Rizal)

During the conversation, Rizal shared that there were various S.League clubs keen to sign him on a part-time basis which he declined.

"It will be very difficult to juggle both commitments (work and football), especially for someone like me who is on shift roster." explained Rizal on not taking up those offers which included some from National Football League (NFL) teams as well.

He added such a predicament is common for someone like his case, as a former teammate of his also faces a similar dilemma.

Despite no longer playing competitively at the top flight, Rizal still plays for his company when opportunities arise or for a simple kick-about with a few friends.

"We play annually against our Malaysian counterparts whom we rarely defeat till I joined the company." said the lifelong Manchester United fan.

"WINNING MEDALS IS NOT EVERYTHING"

Looking back on his time as a professional footballer, Rizal has these to say when asked about his lack of achievements in terms of team accolades with Balestier Khalsa, a club that emphasized grooming talents.

He said: "Winning medals, and honours are important to a player's career, but that's not everything. What matters most is the chance to start every game to prove your worth to everybody."

He also credited a number of people at the Toa Payoh-based club who helped him during his days as a full-time player, such as S Thavaneson (the current chairman of Balestier Khalsa), Abdul Karim Razzak (who was his head coach of Balestier Khalsa), and Md Zainudeen bin Hassan (who served as Head of Youth Development for Balestier Khalsa Centre of Excellence).

"I owed a lot to Mr Thava (Thavaneson) for what I had achieved during my playing time, as he was always there to advise and encourage me whenever I had any problem.

"I guess it's my way to show my appreciation to the club by staying put."

Rizal with Mr S Thavaneson (second from left, provided by Rizal)
Rizal with Mr S Thavaneson (second
from left, provided by Rizal)

The other thing he misses during his time as a player is how to prepare himself before games, such as taking care of his diet, staying focused and maintaining self-discipline.

When asked if unable to earn a cap at the senior level is one of his biggest regrets during one of the recent conversations in updating this blog post, the former Lion City Cup player said: "Of course I do, as professional footballers, it ( was) my dream to play for the country (at senior level).

The contest for the number one spot in the national team during his time was intense when Rizal was facing competition from the likes of Lionel Lewis, Hassan Sunny, Shahril Jantan, etc.

CONTRIBUTING AS A COACH

After stabilising his career in the aviation industry, Rizal decided it was time to return to the game, not as a player but as a coach instead.

Upon the completion of his AFC Level 1 Goalkeeper Coaching Course and C License Coaching Certificate in 2012 saw he launched his coaching career with National Football Academy (NFA).

Rizal rejoined Balestier in 2014 as their goalkeeping coach and was part of the coaching panel that guided the Tigers to clinch the Singapore Cup by upsetting favourites Home United 3-1 in the same year.

My first shot of Rizal in action back in 2014
My first shot of Rizal in action back in 2014

He switched to Tanjong Pagar United in 2020 after the Jaguars were re-admitted to the professional league following a five-year hiatus, taking charge of the custodian department.

The opportunity to join Jaguars' backroom was offered by the club's team manager Noh Alam Shah, the former national star whom Rizal felt was the toughest striker he ever faced during his playing days.

Since 2021, however, Rizal has been redesignated to work on the development of younger 'keepers with another former Home United goalkeeper Fajar Sarib tasked to train the Tanjong Pagar's Singapore Premier League (SPL) squad goalkeepers.

OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE OF LIONS' KEEPERS

Sharing his opinion on the selection of veteran Zaiful Nizam in goal in the recent SEA Games campaign over Young Lions' Ridhwan Fikri, Rizal believes stability was probably the deciding factor that saw his former protΓ©gΓ© not only in goal but captained the Cubs as well.

Rizal and Zaiful in a pre-season friendly in 2014
Rizal and Zaiful in a pre-season friendly in 2014

"Zaiful (has) bags of experience and an extensive career already under his belt that makes Coach Nazri wants to have stability at the back to guide the Young Lions (Singapore U-23 squad) during this SEA Games.

"Even Thailand used veteran Kawin (Thamsatchanan) in goal instead of their young talented goalkeepers." citing the Thais' similar preference for an experienced custodian over their younger ones

It is with enormous pride when Rizal spoke about the progress and achievements of Zaiful who is now with Geylang International.

"On the first day of training (in 2014 at Balestier Khalsa), I told Zaiful that my role to him was not only as a coach, but to motivate and work hard together with him because I believe he got the potential to play for the National Team, and I glad it all paid off when he received his first call-up in 2015 and has been a regular member of the Lions ever since"

Rizal with Zaiful after the 2014 Singapore Cup win
Rizal with Zaiful after the 2014 Singapore Cup win 

Nonetheless, he believes young goalkeepers like Zharfan Rohaizad, Ridhwan, and Karan Sobti have the potential to become the Lions' number one in near future in ensuring Singapore's continuing process to produce quality 'keepers like Lionel Lewis, Hassan Sunny, etc. in recent years.

"(Now) as youth goalkeeper coach, I really hope one day to see them play first-team football in an SPL team and for the National Team, on top of having a good career (in football)." said Rizal in summing up his hopes for those up and coming goalkeepers.


PS: This article was first published on 23rd April 2009 and is being refurbished with additional details in line with the content repurposing of this blog.

Comments

  1. I'll try. Michael Owen is 9th from the left in the bottom row. Stevie G is 10th from the left in the top row. HAHA.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rizal was one of the better GKs during the Sleague that time, but he was pretty underrated. =/

    ReplyDelete
  3. good work pohui. do more of these interviews! wouldn't have known Rizal otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi "Anonymous"..

    Thanks for the compliment, will look towards that direction in near future

    ReplyDelete

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