Interview with Ridhuan Muhammad
By Deepanraj Ganesan on 5 June 2014
As clubs strengthened their squads for the 2014 S.League season, fans basked in the excitement that the transfer window provided, speculating who their club would sign before the window closed. In similar fashion, when news first broke of former Singapore winger Ridhuan Muhammad training with the club, fans of Geylang International as well as local football fans buzzed with elation. It was soon confirmed that Ridhuan had indeed signed a contract with the Eagles and was named as captain for the new campaign. It was the return to Singapore football for the wing wonder. After impressing in the S.League with the Young Lions and Tampines Rovers where he terrorised left-backs across the league, Ridhuan took up an offer to join Arema Malang in the Indonesian Super League. The winger shot to stardom in Malang as fans cheered his name in every match, referring to the player as “R6”, a nickname coined from Cristiano Ronaldo’s CR7. Once a vital part of the national team set up, Ridhuan was an important member of the squad in the 2004 and 2007 AFF Suzuki Cup triumphs. With a season that has gone well individually for the player, Ridhuan will be hoping to continue his individual form which has seen him get on the score sheet on more than one occasion. The captain sits down with Eagles TV, to chat about his time in Indonesia, a possible return to the national team fold and where his future lies.
How did you start playing football and how was your journey to professional football like?
I started playing football around the age of 7. I played the sport a primary school and then I joined the Milo Soccer School (now-defunct youth development program). From there, I went on to the National Football Academy right up to the U18 squad. After that, I got my first break in the first ever Young Lions squad to play in the S-League.
Ridhuan in Arema’s colours
You went on to play in Indonesia for clubs like Arema Indonesia,Arema Cronous and Persisam Putra Samarinda. What was the experience like?
It was awesome. The quality of football and the enthusiasm the fans show is totally different from what I have experienced in Singapore. Matches are often sold out and playing in front of big crowds week in and out was great. Even during training, there would a lot of fans watching the team. The media coverage there is also much bigger.
You mentioned that it is totally different from what you have experienced in Singapore. What do you think needs to be done for the S.League to bring in crowds as well?
It is all about investment. But, you also have to realize that the culture is different here as compared to Indonesia. With investment, players can be more motivated. During Fandi (Ahmad)’s time, the players really played for passion so that pulled the crowds in. But now, you have to pay the players a decent salary and then the players will be more motivated to perform. Young players in the prime league, they get paid very little. 100 or 200 dollars a month is not enough, they would rather work part time elsewhere and earn more. We need to realize that football is a short career and players can only earn till they retire and after that the future is uncertain.
You have done rather well this season. So, are you hoping for a national team call- up?
I heard the national team coach wants to bring in young players into the team because he is preparing for the future. But, I hope he is open to bringing in experienced players as well because I really hope I can earn a spot. I really want to be back in the national team set up but for now I want to give my best to Geylang and contribute with the best of my ability.
Let’s talk about the Eagles then. So how did your move to Geylang International come about?
After returning from Indonesia, I was training with Tampines Rovers and I was close to signing for them but their management decided that they were looking for a player in a different position. It was then that Kanan (then Eagles head coach) called me and asked if I would like to join the team.
Were you surprised at being handed the captaincy after joining Geylang?
It was much unexpected. There are other experienced players like Mustaqim and Aliff as well. But I guess it was because of my national team caps and experience overseas that made Kanan decide on me as the captain.
Geylang International has plenty of talented young players. As a captain, do you take the responsibility to talk to them and dish out advices?
Yes of course. I do like to see the younger players develop. I talk to them and give them advice both on and off the field. Hyder(Ismail) and Wyldan (Wisam) are two players I often talk to .
Since your arrival, there have been coaching changes with Jorg Steinebrunner replacing Kanan. How far has the squad come?
I’ve been with the team for half a season already. The strength this team has is the hard work we put in. We play as a team and we know that whoever we face, we will give them a good fight. If we continue our performances, we can definitely climb the table. The cup is a priority now though.
Speaking about whoever you face, the next match is against the defending champions, Tampines Rovers. Are you confident?
We have to be. To me, the match is 50-50. With the squad we have, I am optimistic and I want us to grab all three points.
What does the future hold for you? You’re currently taking your coaching badges so is coaching an avenue you wish to pursue?
At the moment I don’t really know what the future holds for me. I want to give my best till the season ends then see what options I have. I am not really thinking about coaching at club level. For me, I want to coach the younger kids and develop them.