Singapore Premier League • May 15, 2019
Settled Gabriel Quak ready to fire for Warriors
SINGAPORE 15 MAY 2019 – At long last, Warriors FC are off the mark in the 2019 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
A 2-0 win over the Young Lions last Saturday ended a sequence of 11 league games without victory – a run that stretched back to last August.
Star winger Gabriel Quak, whose sweet volleyed effort just seconds into the second half broke the deadlock, inspired the win, which marked an eventful week for the 28-year-old.
He celebrated the arrival of his second child Garrett four days prior but also experienced tragedy with the passing of a close uncle hours before kick-off.
“My son was born on the seventh, my favourite number, so maybe he brought some luck to me!” Quak told SPL.sg. “It’s always nice to find the net and I’m glad we finally managed to take our first three points.
Quak, who was appreciative of the Warriors’ coaching staff’s understanding, added: “Also my close uncle passed on just before the game, so in fact I reported to the game straight from hospital… It was tough, especially knowing my mum came to watch the game too and was sobbing badly.”
A first clean sheet in 18 outings was welcomed by defender Emmeric Ong, who partnered Delwinder Singh at centre-back.
“It’s something that we all deserved, from the strikers to the goalkeeper, after working hard without anything to show for,” he said.
“We’ve shown this season that we can match anyone on our day; it’s about keeping our mistakes to the minimum and showing more hunger for those three points.”
As for the Young Lions, it is back to the drawing board as they fell to their fifth defeat in eight games.
Defender Jacob Mahler acknowledged that their inexperience has cost them on occasions but is adamant that they will improve over time.
“This team is much younger than last year’s so we do lose focus as a team at crucial moments and make unnecessary mistakes,” the 19-year-old said. “We have talked about it and agreed that we need to be focused and mentally stronger for the full 90 minutes in every game. You can see from our games we work really hard and try to give opponents a tough fight each time. We’re working hard in training to correct the small details and to make us a better team.”
It was a truly memorable night for Quak as he fulfilled his childhood dream of captaining the club that he grew up watching.
Namechecking the likes of Aleksandar Duric, Daniel Bennett and Therdsak Chaiman, he described donning the armband as a “great honour” but admitted he had reservations.
“I felt Poh (Yi Feng) would be the obvious choice due to his seniority and long service at the club,” he said. “But Poh himself was supportive, so I’m pleased to get the support and blessings from him.
“Nothing much changed; in fact, I told the vocal ones like Del (Delwinder), Poh and (Khairul) Nizam to share the responsibilities. Since I’m more reserved, I prefer to lead by my actions on the pitch. Scoring the opener was really a good start for me personally.”
Quak also revealed the reason for switching sides during the coin toss so that Warriors played on the side of their bench in the second half.
“Even the referee was baffled,” he said. “I was taking into consideration the possible scenario that we were in the lead going into the last parts of the game. We threw away points against Geylang (International) and Brunei DPMM… We seem not to know how to hold on to something.
“True enough, we were nervous and started to sit back after we scored. Young Lions were coming at us very strongly. The bench played a major role into guiding us across the finish line – they fired us up, everyone started barking at each other in a good way, everyone was chasing and closing down.
“It was really a nice sight to see and maybe you can call it a psychological barrier removed. At least now, we know we can hold on to a lead and what it takes to keep a clean sheet.”
Slowly but surely, the skilful winger is adapting to life in Singapore after spending 2018 with Navy FC, where he became the first Singaporean to score in Thai League 1 and totalled four goals and one assist in 23 appearances.
Despite offers from Thailand and Indonesia, Quak chose to come home due to family commitments and out of gratitude for Warriors, who allowed him to leave for Thailand despite having signed for them at the start of last year.
“I really enjoyed my time with Navy and had a great season there, but that is now history,” he emphasised. “Now my task is to repay the faith to my boss (Warriors general manager) Paul (Poh), who supported my decision to head to Thailand.
“I believe I still have two to three years (left to play) overseas. If I had to move out again, he will surely support me fully.”
After a busy first few months back, Quak believes he is now more well-equipped to help Warriors push up the table.
“It felt like I needed to… split myself to be at different places,” he said. “I knew May would be better and less hectic once Garrett was born and I’d more settled into a routine.
“I hope to hit double digits but the priority is the team’s progress. Playing with players like Sahil (Suhaimi), John (Jonathan Behe), Iggy (Ignatius Ang), Nizam and Fairoz (Hasan) in the attacking department is fun but we need to translate that into goals.”
With a rematch against Young Lions coming up on Friday night at Jurong East Stadium, Quak is keen for the team to stay grounded.
“We’re still bottom right now!” he reiterated. “Things can change so quickly in football, so the victory means nothing apart from giving us a breath of fresh air and positivity.
“It’s not easy playing the Young Lions, who’re doing so well under Coach Fandi (Ahmad). They’re a bunch of fighters as you can see. Let’s build on this and do better in the second round.”