News Singapore Premier League • April 6, 2018
After setback, Zul back on track to continue family legacy
Pacy attacker is the youngest of four football-playing brothers and keen to keep his feet on the ground
Zulqarnaen Suzliman is into his third season with the Young Lions this year.
SINGAPORE, 5 APRIL 2018 – At 17, Zulqarnaen Suzliman received a wake-up call that shaped the rest of his footballing career.
Caught for joyriding without a licence two years ago, the midfielder had to undergo probation for one and a half years – a period he described as the “most difficult” of his life.
Then with the National Football Academy (NFA; now FAS Football Academy, or FFA), it meant that Zulqarnaen had to rush home after training to ensure he abided by the curfew and he also had difficulty traveling for overseas competitions.
“That’s the worst mistake I’ve made in my whole life,” he reflected. “But that really opened up my mind to be much more disciplined as I know that there are better things waiting for me in future.”
With the unwavering support from his family – especially his mother – as well as his team-mates and coaches, Zulqarnaen got his head straight and broke through for his professional debut with the Young Lions the same year.
That also meant he continued a remarkable Suzliman legacy – his twin elder brothers Zulkifli and Zulfadhli, 28, and third brother Zulfadhmi, 22, have all come through the NFA system and were part of the Young Lions set up as well.
In fact, Zulqarnaen, who picked up the sport at five, even got to share the pitch with Zulfadhmi.
“To be honest, it was quite an awkward moment having to play with my brother on the same team,” he laughed. “However, it was also a pleasure!
“For me, I’ve always looked up to them as they have participated in competitions like the Lion City Cup, AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and AFF (Asean Football Federation) age-group competition qualifiers and even the SEA (South-east Asian) Games.”
The winger got an extended run in the first team in 2017 as he made 19 league appearances, 11 of which were starts.
In his first game of the season, Zulqarnaen’s “best moment” of his career came when he scored a spectacular overhead kick against Home United to net his first-ever goal.
This season, the 20-year-old is looking to build on the momentum and he has been deployed at right wing-back in a new system under new Head Coach Fandi Ahmad.
It is a challenge that Zulqarnaen, who started out as a striker and top-scored for Kranji Primary School at 12 and was then converted to a winger under Nazri Nasir at 14, is not shirking away from.
The Young Lions number 11 will have been boosted by a confident display on Wednesday night in their 2-0 win over Hougang United, where he led a counter-attack at blistering pace and then kept his composure to pick out captain Taufiq Muqminin for the second, killer goal.
They will be aiming to turn in another good performance against Warriors FC on Sunday night at Choa Chu Kang Stadium and Zulqarnaen is not getting carried away.
“We did have a good start and that’s what we wanted as a team,” he said. “Not only did I perform well, full credit has to go to my team-mates for having a superb game and also to Taufiq for an excellent finish.
“It will definitely be a different ball-game facing the nine-time league champions. Our confidence has been boosted but as Coach Fandi always reminds us, we have to put our feet on the ground and keep playing as a team.
Currently waiting on an application status to enroll in Mechanical Engineering at ITE Central, Zulqarnaen fancies bowling in his free time in addition to watching football videos and playing FIFA on his PlayStation.
Blessed with blistering pace and a penchant for getting into wide areas, Zulqarnaen, who names Liverpool’s Sadio Mane as his idol, is not one to rest on his laurels.
“What motivates me is that there is always room for improvement, so I have the mindset that I want to be a better player every day than I was the day before,” he asserted.
“Honestly, I don’t have any personal targets for this season as all I want is for us as a team to have chemistry and teamwork because there is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’. Our target this year would be to finish much higher than we did last season.”
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