1.Tell us what have you been up to these days?
Besides coaching the Young Lions, who are playing in the Singapore Premier League, alongside Fandi Ahmad, I’ve recently partnered with AIA Singapore on a campaign to encourage more Singaporeans to live healthier, longer, and better lives.
We’re searching for passionate Spurs fans in Singapore to celebrate those who have overcome life’s challenges and have since adopted a healthy and active lifestyle. On this trip, we will also get to meet Spurs players and watch a live match at the stadium.
On this note, I’m also volunteering at a couple of secondary schools, helping youths at risk to keep fit, forge healthy friendships and find their passion through football.
2. How do you feel about your son, Adam Hakeem’s progress in the game and do you see him captaining Singapore like you did once?
I definitely feel proud of both my sons’ progress in a sport that I am very passionate about. Both Adam and Amir are playing in my team (Young Lions). Adam has been a regular in the starting line-up for Young Lions and his game has improved tremendously in the past one year.
Adam is only 21 years old and he will only get better as long as playing opportunities are given to him. However, he will need to step up more if he wants to be selected for the National Team. I do hope that he will one day lead the National Team like I did once.
Being both a father and a football coach has inspired me to lead by example and motivate our next generation to be the best versions of themselves. I hope that I can also encourage them to live active and healthy lifestyles and understand the importance of financial and retirement planning through my life experiences.
3. You were part of the 94 Dream Team and was captain when Singapore won the 1998 Tiger Cup. What do you think will be needed for Fandi and the boys to have a deep run in the AFF Suzuki Cup, or to even win it?
During my days in the ’94 Malaysia Cup Team and ’98 Tiger Cup team, we played with a lot of passion. Not only did we bond on the field playing together, we got along very well off the field. Each and every one of us knows exactly what is required from our individual roles and we made sure that we did our part. This year, we have a good mix of youth and experienced players, especially those who are currently plying their trade in Thailand and Malaysia. I do hope that the senior players will be able to lead the younger ones and make a positive influence in the team overall. It is never easy playing in the AFF Suzuki Cup – with the right attitude and guidance by Fandi, I am sure we will give a good run this year.
All three teams are equally strong and have their strengths in various departments. Philippines with its home ground advantage backed by their massive supporters - and I believe they will be calling upon their foreign based players - will be the favourites to win the tournament. However, Thailand and Indonesia are no pushovers too. Instead of worrying about our opponents, we will take a game at a time, play our own game and with enough determination, we should be able to get the results that we want regardless of the opponent.
5.You have had the experience of playing under a foreign coach such as Barry Whitbread and also local ones. Do you think the national team should be led by a foreign coach or a local?
It is not so much about whether the coach is a foreigner or local. As a former professional, I strongly feel that the players will and have to play their best regardless of the nationality of the coach. Whether at Club or National level, the theory works the same.
6. What makes a good captain?
A good captain should lead by example, show leadership on and off the field. He is calm and composed, and able to rally the team when the chips are down. He also motivates and inspires the team.
7.Tell us how did you start supporting Tottenham Hotspur?
I was assigned to ‘represent’ Spurs when I was a kid playing football with my friends. That was how I was first introduced to the team. Since then, I have been following them till this day. It’s my dream to visit the home of Tottenham Hotspur in North London one day.
8.What was the sweetest memory of your long career?
I had a massive career that spanned over 15 years and it is difficult to talk about just one particular ‘sweetest’ memory. Being a playing member of the 1994 Malaysia Cup Team and winning the double remains one of the highlights of my career.
The following year, when Coach Douglas Moore handed me the captain’s armband to lead the team out against Tottenham Hotspur was an amazing feeling because the original captain then was Fandi Ahmad and along with so many senior players in the starting line-up. We drew the game 1-1 and won the game through penalties. This gave me mixed feelings as I was honoured to have led the Singapore team to victory but I’ve also beat the club that I have been supporting.
I am fortunate enough to pursue a career that I love but football is an age-based profession and I had to retire relatively earlier. Right after I retired and before I reached where I am today, life was full of setbacks. If I could do something differently, I would definitely be more disciplined in terms of planning for my future.
9. Sum up yourself in one word?