It has been quite a rise for 19-year-old starlet Shafeeq Faruk.
Coming from a secondary school that did not offer football as a CCA, Shafeeq had to make do with playing for his uncle’s academy.
Today, Shafeeq is the 2015 Prime League top scorer with 20 goals to his name and has played for the Singapore National U21 team which finished third in the recently concluded Vietnam Youth Newspaper Cup.
In an exclusive interview with Goal, Shafeeq shared his thoughts about his experience playing for the country.
“The experience was really good and it was great exposure for me and the rest of the boys in the team,” said Shafeeq.
“As this is my first time getting an international call up, I was really stoked and to finish in third place was an achievement for me.
“I am now aware of the standard of football at this level.”
Star-studded Geylang International squad next season
Shafeeq will be part of a much-changed and star-studded Geylang International side taking part in the S-League next season.
While he featured mainly in the Prime League last season, he has had a taste of S-League action after making a few cameo appearances from the bench.
Shafeeq explained: “The intensity is definitely higher in the S-League and the opponents are also physically bigger as well.”
When asked about the challenge of facing competition for a first-team spot with the likes of LionsXII stars Sahil Suhaimi and Gabriel Quak, Shafeeq seemed to be up for it.
“Geylang is going to have a really strong squad next season where there will be a mix of youngsters and experienced players,” said Shafeeq.
“To earn my spot in the team, I think the only thing I can do is to work my socks off and prove myself during trainings.
“Even if I don't get to play, at least I will be training with good players and it will help me improve.”
As a late bloomer, it has not always been easy for him.
Given the fact that most of his peers started playing competitively much earlier than him, Shafeeq admitted that it was tough playing catch-up to the other players initially but he was soon able to adapt to it.
The former Ngee Ann Secondary student told Goal: “My secondary school did not offer football as a CCA and I think it affected my progress as a player.
“It is definitely good to start young but I cannot turn back the clock.”
This regret of not starting young has made Shafeeq even more determined to take his game to the next level and he has big dreams of playing for the national team one day in the Sports Hub.
“I was quite disappointed that I did not get called up by Young Lions for the upcoming season as they will be featuring an U21 squad in the S-League,” he added.
“But it’s fine with me and I will take that as motivation for me to work even harder and prove myself.
“Like every local player, I do hope to represent the country and play in the Sports Hub one day”
For a player whose local footballing idols include top striker Khairul Amri, there are high hopes in the football fraternity that he could one day be the striker that Singapore football needs.
If he is able to translate his goal-scoring exploits in the Prime League to the S-league, there’s every chance of him succeeding.