News Singapore Premier League • May 22, 2018
Buoyed by surprise, Young Lions’ Rusyaidi continues rise
The 20-year-old’s talent was recognised in unexpected ways and he aims to display it in a new role
Rusyaidi in action for Young Lion this season (Photo by SportSingapore/Chris Tew).
SINGAPORE, 22 MAY 2018 – Two of the biggest moments in Rusyaidi Salime’s life took him by surprise.
The first was his professional debut in February 2016 for the Young Lions against Balestier Khalsa FC in their season-opener – despite not having trained with the team even once.
The second was being called up to the Singapore National Team last October, having only initially been drafted in to train with them.
These two moments bookend the 20-year-old’s rise to date – the former National Football Academy (NFA, now FAS Football Academy or FFA) Under-18 player ended up making the most appearances for the Young Lions in 2016, and again played the most minutes last season.
While he did not make his senior international bow, the right-back turned midfielder is a regular at age-group level and a key figure at the Young Lions again this year.
“I am grateful for the opportunities and (looking back now), I can see how far I’ve come from being just a ‘normal’ player, playing for my community club, to being a professional player,” Rusyaidi told the Singapore Premier League (SPL) website.
He had to overcome a rough patch early on too, when he was sidelined after his conversion to right-back from striker at Singapore Sports School did not go smoothly.
“It turned out badly in the first game as I didn’t know how to position (myself) and didn’t perform,” he recalled of the role-switch by Kadir Yahaya. “At one point, I hadn’t been playing so many games, so I intended to give up.”
But his father – who always ferried him to training – sagely pointed out that it would be a waste to forgo a career that had only just started. That spurred Rusyaidi to take his new position to heart, resulting in his eventual breakthrough a few years later.
Rusyaidi scoring for the Singapore Under-23s against Laos in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (Photo from www.hassanalbolkiahtrophy.gov.bn)
“I still feel the shock (up until today),” Rusyaidi recalled of his very first professional match. “How could I start when I hadn’t even trained with the team at all?”
The day before, the 1.69m teenager had just finished playing a casual football match with his friends when he was told he would be part of the match-day squad. It was even more surreal given that he had only cleared the mandatory 2.4km test a day earlier.
“The coaches just said to pass the 2.4km test and then maybe I’d have the chance to be called up if I perform in the Prime League, so I just did my best – and thank God I passed!” he said.
Rusyaidi, who names his parents as his driving force, added: “But I was (also) telling my friends and parents (the night before) that this was it, this was what I wanted in the first place (to play for Young Lions), so why not go for it? So I just reported (for match-day)!”
Two months away from turning 18, the right-back acquitted himself well enough in a 1-0 win, despite not knowing most of his new team-mates apart from his friends Hami Syahin and Joshua Pereira.
“It was a scary debut because I almost conceded a penalty!” he chuckled. “But it was a great debut and a good experience too.
“It was a really blessed moment because it shows that dreams do come true and hard work does pay off… It was really a proud moment for me to get my debut.”
The high point of Rusyaidi’s career came last year when he was named in the 24-man squad by V. Sundram Moorthy to play in Doha and Ashgabat.
“It was a surprise as I was only called up to train, so I thought to just go and learn and much as I can,” he said. “At the end of the week, when it was time to make the decision (on which players to call up), he (Sundram) asked whether I had school.
“I replied that I was on holiday and then he said he wanted me to go to Turkmenistan! I was shocked.”
Rusyaidi was named on the bench for the friendly against Qatar (5 Oct) and though he did not feature in both that game and the Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan five days later, it was still a valuable experience he savoured.
“I hope to get called up again,” he said. “Consistency is where I need to improve on; I have to perform at my best day in, day out.”
Rusyaidi struck a perfect free-kick last season against Hougang
Scoring twice on his birthday this year is another unforgettable memory for the Singapore Polytechnic Computer Engineering student, whose goals helped the Singapore U-23s beat Laos 5-1 in their Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy opener last month.
Both strikes were a result of him getting into advanced positions, which has happened more often after being converted to a central midfielder by Head Coach Fandi Ahmad this season.
“The change is not that big of a difference,” he noted. “As time goes by, I learn how to adapt better in training and through matches; I just tell Coach I’ll give it my best shot.”
While he idolised former Singapore international right-back Al-Qaasimy Rahman in the past, Rusyaidi now tries to emulate the likes of Chelsea star N’Golo Kante in his new role.
Set-pieces have also been added to his arsenal – Rusyaidi scored his first ever direct free-kick against Hougang United FC last season and is one of the Young Lions’ main dead-ball takers this year.
“I didn’t start off being able to take free-kicks well,” he said. “I only started practicing after training… I started to be (more) confident in myself to step up in games to take them and from then on, I’ve been doing so.
“Sometimes, it’s not always right because I haven’t perfected the technique yet, but I will get there sooner or later.”
One of his deliveries resulted in an assist for Irfan Fandi to score in their win over Warriors FC this season – the second of three victories to date – and Rusyaidi hopes the side will continue to do well.
With 10 points, the Young Lions have already exceeded last year’s tally of six and he asserted that the team is determined to avoid finishing bottom like they have for the past two years.
“For the team, it (the target) is to finish mid-table at least,” he said. “We’ve bonded really well this season and everyone… wants to achieve something better.”
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