News Singapore Premier League • May 8, 2018
Young Lions goalie Zharfan in search of greater heights
The 21-year-old first earned recognition six years ago and is aiming to fulfil his potential
Zharfan Rohaizad with his Young Lions team-mates.
SINGAPORE, 8 MAY 2018 – As a child, he used to dream of becoming a pilot.
Today, Zharfan Rohaizad is flying through the air on a regular basis – only instead of reaching destinations, he is reaching for footballs.
Zharfan’s potential was recognised at the tender age of 16 when he was drafted into the LionsXII side in 2014 by their goalkeeping coach Lee Bee Seng.
While he didn’t make an appearance, being with the team for two seasons was an invaluable experience for the youngster.
“It was an eye opener for me as I was very young, but was able to be exposed to so many talented players,” he told the official Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League site. “They were all very approachable and guided me throughout the season. I felt that it gave me a boost in terms of my exposure and also my skills.”
His imposing 1.80-metre frame also made an impression. “Faritz Hameed (LionsXII defender) asked me if I was really 16!” Zharfan told The New Paper in an interview then. “The rest of the team couldn’t believe it too.”
The goalkeeper went on to join the Young Lions and the 21-year-old has quickly established himself as first choice at club and international age-group level since making a memorable debut in 2016.
“I felt the jitters of course, but I was also very eager to be starting the game, which was against Balestier (Khalsa FC),” he recalled. “I kept a clean sheet and we won (1-0). I can never forget that day!
“It meant a lot (to me) as throughout my footballing career, I’ve always dream of playing in the (then) S.League and I felt all of the challenges and hardship in training and games I had to face had led me to this stage of my life.”
Zharfan’s career started when his father regularly took him to a park to train him, though it could have easily been grounded before it even took flight.
Zharfan hugs team-mate Irfan Fandi after beating Warriors FC in April 2018.
He has a heart condition known as a mitral valve prolapse, where the valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close smoothly and thus allows a small amount of blood to leak backward when the heart contracts to pump blood.
The condition occurs in around two per cent of the population, according to the American Heart Association, and is harmless in most cases, but Zharfan was only cleared to play football when he was 12.
“Initially, I played hockey – also as a goalkeeper – as I couldn’t do football, which was considered more vigorous,” he recalled. “When I was in Primary Six, I went to the hospital and the doctor told me I no longer needed to come for any more check-ups. I got discharged and I played football straight away!”
His parents still worry about him, but Zharfan knows to keep himself healthy and fit in order to avoid any possible complications. He also makes sure to go for check-ups once or twice every year as a precautionary measure.
The sense of what could have nearly not have been, as well as his personal quest to get to the top, is what motivates Zharfan to overcome obstacles and setbacks.
“The most difficult part of my career is when I had a really bad game against Ceres (Negros in the Singapore Cup in 2016),” he said of the match that the Young Lions lost 3-1 in extra time. “It was a game to forget as everything did not go in my favour and after that, many people doubted my ability.
“I was really down, but I told myself that I knew I had the skills and I’m better than this – so I kept on working hard and told myself never to give up as it was only the beginning (of a long journey) for me.”
Zharfan in action for the Singapore Under-23 National Team against Indonesia in March 2018.
His parents and elder sister, who is a year older, are Zharfan’s pillars of strength. The custodian, who cites being vocal and good shot-stopping ability as his strong points, also takes inspiration from Singapore number one Hassan Sunny, a “truly magnificent goalkeeper” and a “really professional athlete”.
As one of the more experienced members of Fandi Ahmad’s Young Lions squad this season, Zharfan does his best to mentor the newer team members as they push for a strong showing in the league.
“I know that some of them need it, so I do my best to guide them,” the number 18 explained. “But at the same time, I have a lot to learn too so every day, I try to take in as much advice as I can from the coaches.
“I would love for my team to finish in the top five at least. It’s not an impossible task as I know my teammates are capable of executing what’s needed of them.”
The Temasek Polytechnic student juggles football with his Electronics Diploma studies and is currently on an internship at Komoco Motors until August, where he is learning about vehicular networking systems. He graduates next year.
As with most of his playing peers, Zharfan is aiming for a call-up to the senior National Team – a dream he believes will come true if he does his best and remains disciplined.
Spending time with friends and family, reading, gaming on the PlayStation 4 and cooking are what Zharfan does in his free time, and he candidly admits that cruising the skies is no longer a dream for him.
“I will probably want to open a business, maybe in the food and beverage or interior design industry!” he chuckled.
But one thing seems certain – if Zharfan maintains his progress, he will continue to soar in his goalkeeping journey.