News Singapore Premier League • April 12, 2018

Ryan Syaffiq returns to Geylang to spread wings


The 23-year-old, who made the leap to professional football from NFL, is at ‘perfect’ place to keep progressing

Ryan Syaffiq scored on his Geylang International FC debut this season in the SPL.

SINGAPORE, 13 APRIL 2018 – Whenever he looks around the dressing room this season, Ryan Syaffiq gets reminded that he is in good company.

Shawal Anuar and Anders Aplin, two of his team-mates at Geylang International FC, have treaded a path that closely resembles the one Ryan is on at the moment.

The right-sided player, who signed for the Eagles at the start of this Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, is one of a handful who have made it to the top tier of local football by coming through the semi-professional National Football League (NFL).

Neither part of the National Football Academy (NFA, now FAS Football Academy or FFA) system in his youth playing days, nor the Prime League set-up, the 23-year-old played for Police SA in the NFL Division 1 while serving National Service (NS) and made the direct leap to the S.League in 2016 upon completion of his NS.

“It was a great moment for me as I’ve never had the chance to be in the national set-up when I was younger,” he said. “It was a huge transition… but I felt grateful for the opportunity to be playing in the top flight at a young age as I’ve always had the aim to make it there.

“I relished the challenge to train and play with the country’s best young players; it was always tough to make it into the 18-man match-day squad!”

The winger made eight starts in 12 appearances in his debut season, scoring his maiden goal against Tampines Rovers FC. He clocked another 12 matches the following year and was also involved in the National Under-23 set-up both years – an experience he will remember for the “rest of my life”.

Geylang, who had previously expressed their interest in their former U-16 player before he joined the Young Lions, then came calling.

The Bedok-based club’s “rich history” and philosophy of youth development, coupled with Coach Mohd Noor Ali’s influence, convinced him to turn down other offers.

“He (Noor Ali) has always expressed his interest in having me play for him and I want to repay the faith by doing something memorable for this club,” Ryan said of the former Singapore international, who is currently on a 10-month attachment with Japan J2 side Matsumoto Yamaga.

“I thought about it carefully for a few weeks before deciding that Geylang is the perfect place for me to continue developing.”

Adapting to a new wing-back role, Ryan has made a good start to life in the SPL. He came off the bench on his debut to score the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Warriors FC last week, before laying on the assist for Fairoz Hasan’s goal in a 3-1 defeat to Tampines Rovers FC at the weekend in his first start.

“I have to praise the effort and positive things the boys showed in both games,” he reflected. “I am confident we will get the points on board soon.

“I am happy with what I have provided for the team, but there’s still more to come, to improve on… I hope to make an impact every time I step on that pitch.”

Ryan’s rise has been shaped by the disappointment of missing out on the South-East Asian (SEA) Games squad last August, having been involved in the U-23 side for most of the year until then.

Instead of dwelling on the “huge let-down”, he took the blow in his stride and focused on improving himself, choosing to join Fandi Ahmad’s U-20s for training and matches.

“It wasn’t a step down at all and I learned many things from him, which aided me in my road to recovering from the disappointment,” he insisted.

“When I look back, I feel blessed to have gone through those tough times as it has moulded me into the player and person I am today.”

Ryan playing for the Young Lions last season.

His journey started at six when he watched Singapore play Manchester United in a friendly on television and fell in love with both the club and the game.

It is no wonder that he cites Ryan Giggs as an idol – his namesake’s action figure sits in the dressing room – along with Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I try to replicate Cristiano Ronaldo as much as I can – his movements with and without the ball, skills, technique and of course his professionalism as well,” he explained.

The next step will be to make the senior Lions squad and emulate Shawal and Aplin by making his full international debut.

“I want to do that this year and show what I can offer,” he said. “For the following years to come, I hope to stay and…make history with the team (by winning trophies). If the opportunity comes along, playing in the top leagues of Asia or Europe would be a dream come true.”

It is a dream that Ryan is fully committed to, having chosen to focus on football full-time this year.

“Life is too short to not chase your dreams, even if it sounds ridiculous and scary – that is what a dream is supposed to be like!” he asserted.

“Even if I don’t make it, at the end of the day, I can be satisfied and tell myself that I’ve done everything in my power to achieve it. I don’t want to live my life full of ‘what-ifs’ and regrets.”

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