The LIONSXII theme song

Faris set sights on year-end AFF Cup

Faris set sights on year-end AFF Cup

Missing out on a place in the Lions’ victorious campaign in 2012, the 21-year-old yearns to make up for lost time.

By Kenneth Tan

SINGAPORE, 8 February 2014: In watching his countrymen lift the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup back in December 2012, Faris Ramli’s feelings at that very moment can only be described as “bittersweet”.

While the then-20-year-old was elated to see his country achieve a record fourth triumph at ASEAN level, he was left reflecting on what it could have been.

The effervescent winger earned himself a place in the final 52 of Nike’s ‘The Chance’ Global Finals that year, and was beginning to catch the eye of former national coach Raddy Avramovic back then with his fearlessness in running at opposing defenders.

After being handed a few call-ups, it looked like Faris stood a good chance of being included in the final squad for the AFF Cup. However it was not to be as the duty to defend his nation came calling sooner than expected.

“Coach Raddy was the one who spotted me,” recalled the 21-year-old.

“I was called up to a few of the squads before the tournament and he told me that I might have the chance to play as a second striker. However, soon the letter (for enlistment) came, and as a result, I had to sit out the tournament.”

With his National Service stint set to end in August this year, Faris is looking forward to getting back to playing football full-time, as well as eyeing a place in Bernd Stange’s 2014 AFF Cup squad.

“It’s frustrating at times,” he admitted. “Sometimes there’re morning gym sessions (with the LionsXII) which I have to miss and sometimes there’s away games which I can’t go for.

But it’s a journey that everyone has to go through. For me, I’m thinking on the positive side; it’s only fair for the other players to start since I lack training at times.

“Every football player wants to play for their country,” he added.

“It’s the same for me, I dream of it and I take every step in my career seriously.

I was disappointed not to play (in AFF Cup 2012), but perhaps that wasn’t my chance yet. For the past one year or so, I’ve been working hard and I’m happy that coach Bernd can see that.”

Brought on as a substitute in the final 20 minutes of the Lions’ 3-1 defeat to Jordan, the nippy Faris showed glimpses of his burgeoning talent and will definitely look to have more national caps added to his name, in addition to the four which he has now.

The defeat on Tuesday night, coupled with the LionsXII’s exit of the Malaysia FA Cup three days ago, meant there was not much to cheer about for Singapore football fans in the past week.

However, Faris is keen to emphasize that the boys are ready to bounce back for tonight’s Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash against Terengganu FA.

“The last two games have been a bit of a down for us,” he shared. “However coach Fandi (Ahmad) has done a great job back in training to motivate us.

Even though the game against Pahang was a FA Cup game, he treated it like a final. It was a loss for us but he told us to learn from this lesson; we cannot be over-confident even thoug we are playing on home ground.

Looking on the bright side, we had enough rest for this game, and most of our players are back to full fitness. During training, everyone was enjoying themselves and we look forward to taking the three points.”

On a personal level, it has been a pretty decent season so far for the youngster. Featuring in all five games to date (three as starter, two as substitute), he has already made his mark: equalling his goal tally of last season with a last-gasp goal against KL DRB-Hicom in the FA Cup first round tie, while earning the corner which led to Khairul Amri’s last-gasp winner against Selangor FA in the MSL.

However, for the ever-ambitious Faris, he finds that his displays so far have simply not been up to mark, and wants to continue to improve.

“So far, my performances are not that great,” he assessed. “I know people have been expecting a lot from me, including the coaches and the fans. For me, playing time is very important.

“I understand that I’m still a part-time player and may miss some games due to NS, but my journey is still long. Regardless, whether I’m in the first eleven or starting on the bench, I have to be well-prepared for every game.”

With teammates like Hafiz Sujad, Gabriel Quak and Nazrul Nazari all capable of playing on the flanks, Faris knows he has to step up his game to earn a regular spot in the team.

“It’s actually a great sign for our team,” he said.

“With more variety of players available, opponents won’t spot our strengths easily. Also each and every one of us has to step up our game; Hafiz has been doing well as a winger thus it’s more difficult for me to get back that position.”

Taking over the famed number 17 jersey at the start of the season, the 21-year-old is aware of the kind of expectations that come automatically with the legendary number, adding that he wants to also score more goals.

“It’s a special number, knowing players like Coach Fandi and Shahril (Ishak) have worn it before,” he said. “When I knew the no. 17 jersey was available, I went ahead and grabbed it. It’s certainly an honour for me.

“For me, obviously I need to score more goals, and I’ve been doing a lot of practice on finishing with Coach Fandi in training.”

The game against Terengganu FA will kick-off at 7.45pm tonight at Jalan Besar Stadium. All tickets for the game have been sold out as of yesterday.

For those who are unable to obtain tickets, you can catch the game ‘LIVE’ via Starhub Channel 201 (SuperSports Arena).

Do support the boys as they aim to come back from last weekend’s FA Cup second-round defeat!