Singapore Premier League • July 31, 2018
At a crossroads, Warriors FC’s Ammirul Emmran determined to achieve breakthrough
Now 23, the former youth star knows he should be achieving more – and believes he still can do it
Ammirul Emmran joined Warriors FC for the 2018 league campaign.
SINGAPORE, 31 JULY 2018 – At 15, he was a key member of the Singapore side that won bronze in the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
Later that year, Ammirul Emmran received the first ever The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award, a prestigious accolade for youth footballers.
The former National Football Academy (NFA) star has also been a regular at age-group international level and captained the Under-21 side, while establishing himself as a regular starter at club level for the Young Lions.
But there is a sense that the promise displayed during his younger days has not quite been fulfilled – and Ammirul, who turned 23 in April, acknowledges that.
“That is a question I do think about,” he told the Singapore Premier League (SPL) website. “I do regret that back at the time, I didn’t work as hard as I probably should have.
“I know I still have quite a few more years to play but at 23, I expect myself not to be where I am right now; to have maybe pushed myself a bit harder and achieved more things.
“Not just in terms of playing more regularly but also to have a good season all the time, to be more consistent. I’ve only represented the U-21s, U-22s and U-23s; right now, I should… (perhaps) not just be there in the National Team, but also have regular playing time at that level.”
The midfielder’s candour is refreshing and he is determined, more than ever, to make his mark this season at Warriors FC.
Approached by the record nine-time league champions to link up with them for the 2018 campaign, Ammirul chose Mirko Grabovac’s side over a couple of other clubs partly because of convenience – Choa Chu Kang Stadium is near his National Service (NS) camp – and also due to the players he would train alongside.
A holding midfielder, Ammirul looks up to Hariss Harun.
Being in the NFA and Young Lions set-up for the entirety of his career meant training with players around his age most of the time, apart from a handful of senior team-mates. But at Warriors, there is plenty of experience to go around and Ammirul relishes it.
“For example, ‘Abang’ Ismadi (Mukhtar) is very senior and guides me well in training and matches, passing his experience and knowledge on to me,” he explained.
“There are players with national team experience and foreign players like Kento Fukuda and Jonathan Behe – one of the best ever foreigners I’ve trained with – and it’s a huge step up for me.
“They take everything seriously and train really hard and where they are now is because of their hard work every day.”
Expectations are also different at a storied club like Warriors, where the aim is to win titles. That has seen Ammirul “change” his mentality and mindset, and work “a bit” harder than everyone else in order to prove himself.
In a way, that is what the 1.74m central midfielder has done throughout his career. At 18, his efforts and perseverance in training were recognised by then-Young Lions Head Coach Aide Iskandar and his staff, and led to a professional debut in 2014 against Balestier Khalsa FC.
Ammirul recalled that experience as a “shock” due to the difference in tempo from the Prime League but he is a seasoned campaigner now, with this being his fifth in the top tier.
He is motivated to do well by his parents, in particularly his father, a former youth international who introduced Ammirul to the sport at six and used to fetch him to and from training.
“All these sacrifices my parents have made for me, I should repay them (by doing well) and make them happy,” he added.
A holding midfielder who prefers a “simple” style of play, Ammirul looks up to Lions captain Hariss Harun, whom he believes should be an inspiration to “any athlete” in Singapore.
“Looking at where he started and where he is now, what he has achieved is something else,” he said of the Johor Darul Ta’zim skipper, who recently won his fifth Malaysian league title to add to his 2015 AFC Cup winner’s medal.
“He’s hardworking, will never stop running, and disciplined on and off the field.”
Ammirul has represented Singapore up to Under-23 level.
STAY PATIENT, STAY HUNGRY
Ammirul is aware there is still plenty of work to do if he ever wants to hit the heights that his idol has scaled, his appetite whetted by playing some of the best youth talent in the world.
In 2014, he was part of the Singapore U-23 side that played Borussia Dortmund’s U-23 side in Austria as part of a training camp, while he was also involved in a Singapore side that took on France U-21 in a friendly later that year.
“That was one of my biggest achievements, playing alongside senior players like Hassan Sunny and Khairul Amri,” he said of the 6-0 loss in Reunion Island. “France were really at another level – Kurt Zouma was there, Kingsley Coman was there and it was an immense experience to play against them.”
Ammirul recognises there is still “a lot of room” to improve – he wants to both score and assist more – but he also knows the value of patience following one of the lowest moments of his career in 2016.
Used sparingly by the Young Lions, he described the experience as “heartbreaking”, but it did not get him down.
“I just trained harder; even on my days off, I’d work by myself,” he said. “I just had to work hard and prove them wrong, but I also knew I had to be patient at the same time to wait for my chance to come again.”
Above all, he is aware that at this stage in his career, there is pressure to make a breakthrough within the next two or three years.
Done with NS earlier this year, football is a full-time pursuit now for Ammirul and while he aims to play abroad in future, the more immediate aim is to crack the National Team.
“Playing regularly in the National Team is different from just getting into the squad,” he said. “Of course, I am targeting to be at the AFF Suzuki Cup…
“It’s good pressure for me because I am 23 and I want to achieve more in my career… I know everything happens for a reason and I have to be patient and work hard and stay focused.
“And if I get a chance to play, I just have to prove to the coaches and everyone else that I really want this so badly.”
Catch Ammirul in action for Warriors against Hougang United FC on Wednesday night, 1 August! Buy tickets at fas.org.sg/tickets or watch LIVE at fas.org.sg/live1!