News Singapore Premier League • July 6, 2018
Akbar Shah striking fear into SPL defences on Balestier return
The 22-year-old striker has shone in his second stint with the club after completing National Service
Akbar Shah celebrates his first professional goal for Balestier against Young Lions.
SINGAPORE, 6 JULY 2018 – Intense competition in the striking department at Balestier Khalsa FC this season has seen Keegan Linderboom, Vedran Mesec and Hazzuwan Halim take turns to lead their attack.
In recent games, however, youngster Akbar Shah Zainudeen has prospered in his role as the furthest man upfront for the club.
Having to fight for a place has been his “hardest challenge”, but the 1.78m striker believes that having Linderboom and Mesec as mentors has been key for his development.
“To be very honest, it’s a great honour to train alongside them as they motivate me a lot,” Akbar told the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) website.
“They have helped me a lot by telling me to not give up and keep pushing. They have also helped give me a better understanding of how the game works, especially after I missed a few games at the start of the season.
“But it is not only them; the whole team and management gave me the moral support as well.”
Akbar, who penned a two-year contract on his return to Toa Payoh in March this year, underlined his meteoric rise by netting his first professional goal against the Young Lions on 10 June.
The first person he embraced after scoring? None other than Linderboom, whom he had replaced just three minutes before finding the net.
His performances this season have not gone unnoticed. Akbar was rewarded with a spot in the starting line-up when the Singapore Under-23 National squad faced Myanmar last month, a moment that he considers the best of his career so far.
“It is a dream come true to be representing my country,” he said. “I feel joyful to be representing the Singapore Under-23s. Even though we lost, I felt that we were capable of winning the match. It was also a wish of my late grandfather for me to represent the country.”
“I also feel that all my hard work has not gone to waste and on that day itself, I felt very satisfied and thankful to the management of the team and teammates for believing in me.”
Akbar Shah in action for the Singapore Under-23 National Team.
The management at Balestier have always believed in Akbar, having handed him his professional debut three years ago during his first stint with the club.
“I feel very honoured and thankful for having the chance to play for Balestier Khalsa again having made my debut in 2015 before serving National Service,” he said of his maiden appearance against Tampines Rovers as a substitute.
Akbar first joined the ranks of Balestier Khalsa in 2013 when he signed for the Tigers from Hougang United FC, having played for the latter’s U-18 side the year prior.
After a year with Balestier’s U-18, he was called up to their Prime League team and got the opportunity to train with the S.League players during that time.
Akbar, who started playing football at seven but only decided he wanted to play professionally during his time with Hougang’s U-16s, then had to sit out the 2016 and 2017 seasons due to National Service.
Watch Akbar Shah score his first professional goal
The Balestier number 23 now aims to make up for lost time and wants to repay the club’s faith in him.
“In the short-term, I want to qualify for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup with Balestier Khalsa FC next year,” said Akbar, who wants to represent Singapore at senior level as well.
With his love for scoring goals, Akbar is an attacker known for his speed and his ability to take on opposing defenders, similar to the players he looks up to.
“The most important quality is to score goals and help the team to win,” Akbar shared. “But I need to improve on my finishing and ball control.
“My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldo Lima from Brazil. Both of them have speed and skill to beat players and are able to score many goals for their teams.
“They are also very humble and respected by many people. They inspire and motivate people like me to be better each day.”
With his drive to succeed and a quality support system, there is no reason to doubt that Akbar can develop into one of the most feared strikers of the local game.