Interview with Hafiz Nor
By Andrew Ang on 30 April 2014
For many footballers, their journey to professional football usually takes a similar route. Starting at a youth level, they come up the ranks to play in what is known as the Prime League before earning a call up to the S.League squad and then the eventual National Team call up for the truly gifted. But for one talented young man, the journey was one of disappointment and dejection before he turned out to be one of the best wingers in the league. Meet Hafiz Nor, Geylang International’s twinkle toed magician. The rise of Hafiz has been widely followed by those in the local scene since he made his first start in the S.League as a professional player, in 2010. In 2013, he enjoyed a stellar year, going on to win a much deserved national team call-up whilst also helping himself to the 2013 Goal of the season award for a belter against Balestier Khalsa. Now, with Geylang International , the speedy and tricky winger speaks to Geylang International Media Team on his much talked about journey, his departure from Tanjong Pagar United and his future aspirations with the National Team.
How was your path to being a professional football player like?
I actually started playing football when I was 8. My father was the one who taught me the basics. From there I developed an interest and soon enough, I got selected to play for the Singapore U12 team. I then hoped to make a progression but because of my height, I was told by a few coaches from the trials I attended that I couldn’t cut it in local football. I actually gave up on playing professional football but after National Service, with the help of my good friend, Ridhuan Barudin, I got back my passion and I played football in the National Football League with Sembawang Sports Club for a while, before I caught the eye of then Tanjong Pagar coach, Terry Pathmanathan during trials. He gave me a contract to play for the S.League side.
You made your debut in the S.League with Tanjong Pagar. How did it feel like to finally play professionally after all the challenges you faced?
Of course, I was really really happy. I waited for that chance for really long, and to finally play in the S.League was great for me. But I remember, being very nervous on that day, especially because it was a live game. The funny thing is that, my first game was actually against my current club, Geylang International.
You received a national team call up and made your debut against Laos. How did you feel?
To be honest, I was very shocked to be called up. But after that I just felt so delighted. I had always wanted to play for my country and to get the call up was a dream come true for me.
How did the move to Geylang International come about?
I was actually released by Tanjong Pagar at the end of last season. That came as a shock to me, I did not expect that. So I was without a club. Midway through last season, Vedhamuthu Kanan (then head coach of Geylang International) approached me asking if I would like to play for his team. So after I was released, I decided to take up the offer from the Eagles.
How has the season been so far and how do you feel about the squad?
The squad is a very strong one. As a team, we are getting better because we are starting to gel . In time, we will be ready for anyone. We have to finish in the top four at least. That has to be the target.
You have been played behind the striker this season. Do you cherish that role or is playing on the wing your preferred role?
I prefer playing as a winger. I am not used to my current position but I will keep trying and work hard for the team.
Who is the best player in the squad?
Kento Fukuda. He is so composed for a defender and his ability to lead the backline is admirable.
What are your thoughts on the foreigners in the league? Do they add quality?
Some of them, yes they add a lot of quality to the league. If you see this season, I think it’s the toughest one I have played in as a professional player. All the teams look good.
Who is your football idol?
One and only Cristiano Ronaldo. He actually worked hard to be where he is right now as the best player in the world. He is an inspiration like me and I want to be like him.
What is your message to aspiring footballers?
The key is that you have to always believe in yourself. Keep at it and you will achieve your dream.
You face your former team, Tanjong Pagar. Is this game special to you?
Of course, I am very excited really. I will be putting in more than 100% in the match and I badly want to win.