Singapore Premier League • April 25, 2019

Adam Swandi hungry for next breakthrough


SINGAPORE, 25 APRIL 2019 – With a treble and the Young Player of the Year accolade under his belt, 2018 concluded as the most successful year of Adam Swandi’s career.

That also left him with a dilemma ahead of the new Singapore Premier League (SPL) season – to stay at Albirex Niigata (S), or to move on?

The Japanese side wanted to keep him for another year but eventually, the lure of continental football proved too hard to resist for the 23-year-old.

Adam returned to the familiar surroundings of Home United, whom he played for in 2017, as part of his quest to kick on further.

“After discussing with my family, Albirex and Home United, I felt the best move was for me to come here and expose myself to Southeast Asian football again,” he told the official SPL website.

The silky-smooth attacker has settled in seamlessly and started all 12 games to date; he has already matched last year’s league tally of three goals and been one of the bright sparks in a mixed start to the campaign for Home.

A poor run of results saw former captain Noh Rahman replace Saswadimata Dasuki as interim head coach last month, though last night’s 3-0 win over Geylang International saw them move up to fifth in the SPL table. They also have a shot at qualifying for the next stage of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

“It has been a fruitful experience in the AFC Cup although the players do feel tired with the number of the games,” Adam said. “That’s just football – these are just opportunities for us to showcase what we can do and we cannot use it (fatigue) as an excuse. The season has not gone perfectly as we wanted, but there’s still a lot of time for us to improve on things.”

Getting better and making the next big step is precisely what Adam is aiming to do.

One of the most promising youngsters to come through the now-defunct National Football Academy, Adam rose to prominence during the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Lion City Cup.

He earned himself a move to French outfit FC Metz and earned his first Singapore cap in 2013, a feat that made him the third-youngest ever debutant for the Lions (a mark that still holds).

But Adam has not progressed as he would have liked in the past few years, which he readily acknowledged.

“As of last season, I don’t feel like I’m a young player anymore – I should be a player somewhere near my peak,” he asserted. “I realise I’m no longer young – I have had a few full seasons in the SPL so it’s now time for me to really step up.

“This is my target this year – to not be regarded as a young player anymore; to be regarded as an important player for my club and if possible, the country.”

He earned his sixth cap in a 13-minute cameo during Singapore’s 1-0 win over Indonesia in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup last year and is keen to be more involved.

“I just have to work harder and the opportunity will come again,” Adam said. “With a new coach coming in, it opens a lot of doors for every single player. It’s a privilege to… wear the national jersey and I’m just ready to put in my best performance whenever I’m called upon.”

To step up, Adam recognises that he needs to become a more complete player. The second-highest local in the assist charts (eight) last year, Adam wants to add more goals to his game.

“I think people see me as an attacking player who barely scores goals,” said Adam, whose best scoring season was in 2017 with Home when he netted seven. “I’m always looking for assists… it’s just in my nature that I like to look for passes.

“But as an attacking player, I know I have to rack up the goals as well. It’s something which I’ve been working on and I hope I’m going to score more from this season onwards.”

Naturally, the next milestone is to achieve a dream overseas move.

“Whatever that has happened in the last six to seven years has developed me into what I am today,” Adam reflected.

“Of course it’s every footballer’s dream to play at the highest level, like the top-tier leagues in Europe but a more realistic target is in Japan or Korea.

“It’s difficult, but not impossible if we have the determination and support from our families. With the news on K-League introducing an ASEAN player quota rule (in 2020), it’s going to get slightly easier for us to get there.”

That goal may not be that far from coming to fruition; Adam went on a week-long trial with Albirex Niigata last September and was close to getting a contract with the J-League 2 club.

“The club actually got in contact with Albirex Singapore on wanting me to come back again and see how things will work out,” he said.

“But that’s something for the future. I have to be realistic that they will not sign a foreign player who is not guaranteed to play in the first eleven or (is at) a level above their local players. That’s something for me to work on and you never know what’ll happen in the future.”

Having seen promising peers like Rashe Rahman, Azhar Ramli and Faridzuan Fuad drop out of the scene, Adam is determined to fly the flag for the “Class of 96” batch.

“That’s football – every year someone may stop football or may not make the cut,” he said. “I’m really proud of my mates like Zulfadhmi (Suzliman), (Amirul) Adli and Iqram (Rifqi); we’ve gone through a lot of things together in the last 13 or 14 years.

“We’ve come a long way to become professional footballers and we should not waste this opportunity. It’s really a dream job – to get paid to play the sport we love. I’m sure the remaining ones are relishing it and looking forward to don the national jersey – to do our batch proud.”

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