Nigel Chin on why you should be watching out for a young full-back who has made the leap up from Prime League to Malaysia Super League with the LionsXII this season...
The 60-second story
- Full name: Muhammad Zakir Bin Samsudin
- Date of birth: September 18,1994
- Place of birth: Singapore
- Current Club: LionsXII (0 apps)
- International: Singapore U19, Singapore U21
Attacking full-backs are all the rage these days, with the role a hugely integral one to every successful team committed to playing attacking football. Not all, however, are adept defensively as well, which is what makes Zakir Samsudin an exciting prospect for Fandi Ahmad’s LionsXII.
The young Singaporean defender has come along in leaps and bounds since beginning his professional career with Warriors FC in 2013. Initially signed for the Prime League squad, Zakir impressed then head coach V. Selvaraj to force his way into the senior team for the first three games of the season.
The National Football Academy product and former Singapore Sports School student went on to join the Singapore Cubs in the Prime League last year, where his hugely impressive performances have since help him earn a move to the LionsXII.
Why you need to know him
With Shakir Hamzah moving to Courts Young Lions for the season, the LionsXII have Hafiz Sujad – a central midfielder by trade – as their only left-back in the squad. Zakir’s presence in the squad means that Fandi will have adequate back up for Hafiz, and when needed, allow Hafiz to plug in the gaps in midfield.
If anything, preseason appearances have shown that the youngster does have something to his game to have deserved elevation to this level. It might be too early to throw him into the first team, but there's plenty of time for him to grow into his new LionsXII boots.
Still only 20, Zakir also has the chance to force himself into the reckoning for Aide Iskandar’s SEA Games squad in June, a good opportunity to continue proving himself on the international stage having represented Singapore in youth competitions previously.
Zakir’s most notable asset is his ability on the ball. A left winger previously, he is quite comfortable in possession as a result. He is also highly adept at running with the ball and moving into good positions to receive it.
With left winger Faris Ramli having a tendency to drift inwards, this is where Zakir’s penchant for overlapping runs becomes useful, opening space up for the attackers.
Zakir is also one who does not shirk his defensive duties, and he does time his tackles well.
The one major flaw in Zakir’s game is that he tends to lose his composure easily. With the Malaysia Super League drawing plenty of fans usually, it is important that Zakir stays focused and does not play to the crowd.
The full-back can also get caught out of position occasionally, but with ample time on his side, it is something that can be worked on with more defensive drills in training.
“He’s got good potential; he’s diligent, hardworking and he has a good left foot and good pace,” Richard Bok, Zakir’s head coach at Singapore Cubs, said of the full-back.
“He played for me at left back and left wing and he’s quite good at both. He can score goals as well.
“He’s now given the chance to play at a higher level, so he’s got to make full use of it and show what he can do. I believe if he works hard enough, he will definitely be able to make the National Team.”
Did you know?
Zakir was called up to Singapore U-21 team for the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei last year. While the team generally failed to meet expectations, Zakir was one of those who emerged from the competition with his reputation intact. In fact, he was one of the two Singapore goal-scorers in the tournament.
What happens next?
Pushing for a first team berth with the LionsXII this year will be his main aim. If he’s able to get first team football consistently, a spot in the SEA Games squad will not be out of the question, although getting the nod ahead of Shakir Hamzah for the Singapore U23s might be a step too far for now.
However, with National Service still to come for the Republic Polytechnic student, things may not be as straightforward. Nonetheless, a good debut season with the LionsXII will go a long way in helping his career along for sure.