News Singapore Premier League • July 20, 2018
Geylang defender Danish Irfan determined to soar
Fueled by hard work, the 19-year-old is enjoying a breakthrough season
Danish Irfan made his professional debut with Geylang International this year.
SINGAPORE, 20 JULY 2018 – Professional debuts can be daunting, particularly when you are tasked to shackle one of the best strikers in the league.
Going into Geylang International FC’s first match of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season against Warriors FC, centre-back Danish Irfan was a bundle of nerves.
“I knew the level was going to be different from the Prime League,” he told the SPL website “Playing against a striker like Jonathan Behe in my first game was a really nerve-wrecking prospect.
“However, I have always dreamed of playing in the SPL, so getting my debut was really special!”
Ryan Syaffiq’s last equaliser at Bedok Stadium eventually rescued a point in a 1-1 draw that night and while Danish did not enjoy the best of games, he has since gone from strength to strength.
The 19-year-old is the youngest first-team member in the Eagles and has impressed at both centre-back and left wing-back, clocking ten starts and one substitute appearance so far.
Danish would have had more minutes but for minor injuries and international commitments; he captained the Singapore Under-19 side that participated at the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U-19 Championships earlier this month.
That team copped flak for some underwhelming results in a group-stage exit and Danish did not shy away from addressing the issue, displaying maturity in his response.
“I believe the boys tried their best in the tournament…even though we didn’t have the ideal preparation, we were able to match the likes of Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam at times,” he said.
“However, I think that criticisms are necessary as it makes us stronger, both as a person and as a player. I learned that we need to work even harder to be as fit (as other countries), to be able to compete internationally and also to be mentally stronger.”
Danish can play at both left-back and centre-back.
BEST FOOT FORWARD
The former National Football Academy (NFA, now FAS Football Academy or FFA) star is no stranger to hard work; originally a right-footed player, Danish worked so much on his weaker left foot that it is now his dominant foot.
“It’s a very funny story, actually!” he recalled. “My father kept telling me that a good footballer should be two-footed, so I kept practising on my left – so much so that I forgot how to kick with my right!”
Hard work also helped Danish overcome the “most difficult period” of his career – a slight crack on his L4 vertebra (one of the two lowest vertebrae in the lumbar spine together with the L5) that ruled him out of action for almost three months.
He missed a training tour with the Singapore U-18s that was part of preparations for the 2017 AFF Championships, managed to play a part in the tournament proper through sheer determination.
“After I was cleared (to train again), I worked my socks off during rehabilitation to get back into shape and I ended up missing only one game in the AFF,” Danish said.
It was Danish’s father who got him started on football, bringing him to West Coast Park for weekend kick-abouts with his cousins.
A former footballer who used to play in the now-defunct Inter-Constituency Tournament – and who was recommended to Geylang in 1983 by Majid Kassim, brother of the late Dollah – Danish’s father sent him to the International Soccer Academy to develop when he was seven.
As is typical of most youth players, Danish went through the Singapore Sports School and National Football Academy (NFA, now FAS Football Academy or FFA) systems.
The 1.79m-tall left-back turned centre-back was not offered a contract by the Young Lions after graduating from the NFA, but former Geylang Head Coach Noor Ali offered Danish the chance to join the club and he grabbed the opportunity.
Get to know more about Danish!
A defender with a good reading of the game and a strong aerial presence, Danish describes his style as “sort of like Andreas Christensen from Chelsea”. He looks up to Cristiano Ronaldo for his “unbelievable” work ethic and humility, as well as Sergio Ramos and Ryan Giggs.
But Danish is also aware that he still has plenty to learn at this early stage of his career, citing attributes like aggression, strength, speed and the timing of his tackles.
“I’ve learned to adapt to any system that the Coach (Hirotaka Usui) plays and to study my opponents before games so that I can cope better in the matches,” he said of his time at Geylang to date.
“I’ve also learned a lot of basic things like when to make a sliding tackle and when not to, where to pass and what to do under pressure.”
Currently juggling football with his Year 3 studies at Singapore Polytechnic in Aerospace Electronics, Danish watches the NBA in his free time and occasionally goes on food hunts with his friends.
Naming Springleaf Prata, Krave, Zam Zam and his grandmother’s chicken rice stall at Ayer Rajah Food Centre among his favourite jaunts, he chuckled: “I am always hungry!”
The hunger translates on the pitch too. Danish wants to help Geylang – second-bottom with eight games left – to achieve a mid-table finish this year, while also aiming to be “one of the best” U-23 players in the SPL and get regular call-ups to older age-groups (U-21 and U-23) internationally.
“In the long term, I hope to play in the next two SEA Games and also abroad, as well as get into the National Team,” he added.
With the appetite to succeed and the determination required to achieve it, Danish appears primed to soar in the future.
Catch Danish Irfan in action for Geylang International FC against Tampines Rovers FC on Saturday night, 21 July! Buy tickets at fas.org.sg/tickets or watch LIVE at fas.org.sg/live1!