News Singapore Premier League • July 17, 2018
Surprise package Jacob Mahler determined to seize Young Lions opportunity
An unexpected addition, the 18-year-old has impressed despite playing in an unfamiliar role
A natural centre midfielder, Jacob Mahler (left) is playing centre-back for the team currently.
SINGAPORE, 17 JULY 2018 – When opportunities come along in life, sometimes you have to take them.
At the start of this season, Jacob Mahler was part of the Football Association of Singapore Football Academy (FFA) Under-18 squad due to participate in the FAS COE Under-19 league.
But a last-minute call-up to join Fandi Ahmad’s Singapore Under-21 squad for the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy Tournament in April would change the trajectory of his season.
Mahler completed all three matches in the side’s run to the semi-finals, impressing in particular as a makeshift centre-back during their group-stage defeat to Cambodia.
Fandi saw enough of the midfielder, whom he had invited to join in a few training sessions with his Young Lions team before that, to promote him to the squad upon their return to Singapore.
“The best moment of my career so far was getting the U-21 call,” Mahler told the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) website.
“It was a proud moment for me to play for an older age group… I gave a decent showing and after that, I was offered a place in the Young Lions squad and I took the opportunity.
“I had not really expected to be called up by Coach Fandi to join the trainings (before that), but I just gave it my best shot and I am grateful to be part of the team now.”
But Mahler’s joy at linking up with the Young Lions was quickly soured when he suffered a bad injury before he had even kicked a ball in the SPL.
While playing in a friendly with the team in preparation for the league, he sprained and tore the ligament in his right ankle. That sidelined him for two months, which meant he missed playing in ten league matches.
“That was a difficult moment in my career,” Mahler admitted. “I had suffered the same injury on my left ankle three years ago – (what I learned from that) was to make sure I came back stronger and faster.”
Jacob Mahler made his professional debut against Geylang International FC
As part of his recovery, Mahler fastidiously hit the gym for rehabilitation work. Aided by Fitness Trainer Aleksandar Bozenko, he quickly got back on his feet and was able to run after about four weeks.
Earlier this month, the moment that he had been looking forward to finally came as Fandi gave Mahler his professional debut by starting him in a 3-1 loss to Geylang International FC.
“It was definitely an honour, even though I would have loved to get the win as a bonus,” he said. “I was proud to make my debut, especially in front of my parents, who were there to witness it.
“I did not imagine I would make my (professional) debut this early in my career, but I always had a dream to play in the SPL one day as it’s the highest level of football in Singapore and a good platform to improve and become a better player.”
Mahler has been deployed at centre-back in all three games he has played so far and acquitted himself well, despite his natural position as a centre midfielder.
“I don’t mind playing in any position that Coach and the team needs me to,” he asserted. “I will try my best and keep fighting for the team, no matter what.”
The lanky 1.84m-tall Mahler’s height serves him well at the back, though he revealed he dabbled briefly in basketball during his primary school days.
“My school, Teck Ghee Primary, didn’t offer the sport (football) so… I was playing basketball in school and football outside,” he recalled. “I’d say my passion was always greater for football and I always enjoyed the sport more (though).”
After moving onto St. Joseph’s Institution, Mahler then joined the National Football Academy (FFA’s previous incarnation) and focused exclusively on the Beautiful Game.
Jacob Mahler in action against Home United FC.
‘I WANT TO BE LIKE HARISS’
He is deeply appreciative of the “sacrifices” that his parents have made to support his career, which include fetching him to and from school to allow him to get enough rest and study time, and coming to support him at every match and even training session.
“My parents have motivated and influenced my life the most,” Mahler said. “They always encourage me and most importantly, support me in everything I do. They also give me advice on how I can be better.
“I am really grateful for them and I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me – everything I do is for them and to make them proud.”
His close friends, relatives and girlfriend are cited as other key support figures by Mahler, who looks up to Manchester United legend Paul Scholes and Singapore Captain Hariss Harun.
“Scholes just because of how he distributes the ball and his aggressiveness in play,” he explained. “Locally, it is Hariss because he has accomplished so much in his career and the way he plays for the country – his passing, his fighting spirit and always pushing the team on.
“I look up to him and I wish I can be like him one day.”
Unsurprisingly, Mahler describes himself as an aggressive player who will “work his hardest” for the team, “decent in the air” and preferring to keep it simple on the pitch but also able to play penetrative passes when needed.
“My strengths are heading, aggression, passing and my desire to win and never give up,” he added. “The areas I need to improve in would be my speed and my reactiveness because I feel I am a bit slow at times.”
Currently studying Aerospace Electronics at Temasek Polytechnic, the Year 2 student is keen to make the most of his unexpected breakthrough and push on at both club and international level.
“My aim for the rest of the season would be to get as many minutes as I can on the pitch…and try to help the team climb up the table,” Mahler asserted.
“In the long term, I hope to get called up to the National Team and maybe even get the chance to play abroad.”