Safiq still has a place at champions JDT

Safiq Rahim, Johor Darul Ta'zimJohor Southern Tigers

On a night of celebrations, where the 2018 Super League trophy was handed back once again for the fifth straight year into the arms of Johor Darul Ta'zim, one poignant moment emerged late in the second half.

Six years ago back in 2013, Safiq Rahim joined the revolution at JDT. If HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim is the king at the club, Safiq is most definitely his anointed general on the pitch. The capture of the then 26-year-old midfielder at the prime stage of his career was a marquee moment in the whole process of the reinvention of the football club.

Safiq arrived with the pedigree of someone who has already lifted the Super League, the AFF Suzuki Cup as well as being one of the feared player at least within the Southeast Asian region. Winning the 2014 Super League title was a pivotal moment in the history of the club and achieving that feat in just the second year of the project showed the intention of the club.

The Kuala Selangor born Safiq was at the heart of that success and for the subsequent three seasons that followed, he led the club to bigger and greater heights. Yet the arrival of 2018 would signal a significant change in the role and responsibilities that Safiq assumes as JDT. While he started out this season still very much the linchpin of the team, he was slowly phased out as the season went on.

Perhaps at the age of 31, Safiq no longer possess the physical qualities required by JDT to be the main man. Hariss Harun has taken over the mantle and the armband but tactically provided something different.

Safawi Rasid, Johor Darul Ta'zim
(C) Johor Southern Tigers

In the 78th minute of the 4-0 win over Kelantan on Friday night, the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for the introduction of Safiq as he replaced Fernando Elizari. One minute into his entrance onto the pitch, Safiq had already delivered a corner kick that found its way to Safawi Rasid to slam home the third goal of the match.

But in the 85th minute came a moment that illuminated the match, a signature through pass with the outside of his foot for S. Kunanlan. A sumptuous perception of what is played out in front of him and proving that the keen eye for a pass is still very much an arsenal in his locker.

Kunanlan was tripped and a penalty was awarded to JDT. Fernando Marquez and Gonzalo Cabrera both stepped aside for Safiq to place the ball on the spot. A relative slow run up was followed by an incredibly calm panenka penalty that left Kelantan's Shahrizan Ismail completely beaten.

A general that is said to be on the wane and not for senseless reasons either but Safiq in his cameo showed that he's still capable of producing the goods when it matters. The current situation may not be a temporary thing and that moving forward to next season, Safiq could well look at the same playing situation.

For someone who has fought all his career to get to where he is, Safiq is unlikely to want to seek a move away from JDT what with the prize of playing in the AFC Champions League group stage being dangled in front of him. 

Capping that part off and ticking that item in his career list, Safiq Rahim would have proved to even his harshest critics, that he deserve a special place in the history of Johor Darul Ta'zim FC and Malaysian football.

Johor Darul Ta'zim
(C) Johor Southern Tigers