|By Khalis Rifhan
Once termed as a "bad boy" in Singapore football, Woodlands Wellington defender Shariff Samat has come of age and is now seen as a leader on the pitch by his peers.
A consistent and impressive season thus far with his new club in the S.League has also earned the 29-year-old a spot in the latest national team squad by new coach Bernd Stange for the upcoming friendly matches in June against Myanmar and Laos.
“I was very shocked when I was first informed of the news by my club and I am really very grateful for this opportunity given to me,” Shariff told Goal.
Shariff started his professional career with now-defunct Sembawang Rangers and his talent was undeniable then - but so too was his temper. He was once handed an eight-month ban by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for punching then-Geylang United player Peter Benett in 2003 at the Yishun Stadium.
That action was swiftly condemned by his father, former Singapore captain Samad Allapitchay, who was known as a disciplined player during his time in the national team.
Shariff subsequently returned to S.League action in 2005 with Home United before he was snapped up by the Courts Young Lions a year later. The centreback then made a name for himself with Tampines Rovers in 2007.
A fan favourite when he signed for Hougang United in 2011, his contract was not renewed by the club after several disciplinary issues during the season and the player soon found his way to the National Football League, turning out for Admiralty FC for the 2012 season.
But despite the troubled past, Shariff is thankful that his parents, Samad Allapitchay and Norizan Aljunied,and wife, never gave up on him and were always there to guide him in his life and career.
“Yes it has been a difficult last few years for me but I am thankful that I have wonderful parents who are always there for me, giving me advice and especially to my dad who motivates me and is a role model for me in football," he gratefully said, before vowing to grab his chance with both hands.
“I was previously called-up to the national team but did not get a chance to play, even as a substitute. I hope that I will be given a chance to play and show my capability to the new coach.
“I am not young anymore and I will do all I can to claim a starting spot in the national team and will train hard to further improve myself.”