Safuwan Baharudin has been under the glare of media and fans ever since he rose to prominence in 2014. Joining Malaysian side PDRM this year, FourFourTwo caught up with the Singapore international to find out how he’s adjusting to his new home…
The pressure is now doubled because the club expects you to deliver as a foreigner
In the three years that followed, the load on his shoulders only increased as he became an integral member of the now-defunct LionsXII. A loan move to Melbourne City also did little to lessen the level of scrutiny he faced.
Even after leaving the 2015 Malaysia FA Cup winners to join PDRM FA at the tail end of the season, this has not changed.
If anything the move has only intensified the spotlight, Safuwan shared with FourFourTwo upon his return to the national team fold this week, ahead of the international matches against Myanmar and Afghanistan.
“It's a double load for me because being a foreigner there is not easy,” Safuwan explained.
“In LionsXII there was also pressure on me, but the players there were key to me delivering under pressure as they are the ones who provided service for me to excel. So I think maybe it is going to take a while for me to adapt to this pressure.
“I was at Melbourne quite some time back as a foreigner too, but the pressure is now doubled or a few times more because the club expects you to deliver week-in, week-out as a foreigner.”
Safuwan’s cause is not helped by PDRM’s struggles in the Malaysia Super League, sitting in eighth place with just an opening day 1-0 win over Sarawak and two draws in their keeping through five games.
The Royal Police, and Safuwan in particular, did earn some breathing space with a fantastic come-from-behind 2-1 win over Selangor in the FA Cup earlier in March.
The Singaporean’s first goal of the season in that match helped secure victory and alleviate some of the scrutiny over his ability to deliver when it mattered.
But for Safuwan, he believes this is not enough.
“It has not been the best of starts football-wise, because PDRM are not the top team in the MSL,” the 25-year-old said. “Seven of them are full-time policemen there so you cannot expect them to be one of the best teams.
“For the first month it wasn't easy because when I came there were nine pre-season matches and it took four games for me to score goals.
“Now I am feeling the pressure because I only scored one goal for the last six competitive matches and that's not normal for me.
“I am trying to adapt as fast as I can but the adapting period is over. Now it’s on how I am going to make full use of myself for the team.”
While PDRM’s start has been less than ideal, Safuwan said that he was coping fine with everything else.
The culture for one is similar to Singapore, he said, while Safuwan’s teammates have made him feel welcome since day one and he doesn’t feel excluded as a foreign signing.
Having been shuffled around to fill several roles in recent years for LionsXII, Melbourne City and Singapore, Safuwan has also been playing consistently as an attacking midfielder, and it’s been a welcome change.
But if he has to slot back into defence again for PDRM, he would have no qualms about it.
“For all the matches I played I have been mostly used as an attacking midfielder,” he said.
“I cannot say where I fit better because every game we have to consider our opponents. So if the coaches feel I am best at attacking midfielder or any positions, by all means play me there.
“You always prefer that one position so that you can prolong your career, but for now I am satisfied with where I play.”
Safuwan will return to Kuala Lumpur after the international break, but until then he is keen to spend as much quality time as he can with his family back in Singapore.
“You definitely miss Singapore,” he said wistfully. “Even if you ask Hassan Sunny (who plays in Thailand) or Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta’zim), they will tell you the same thing.
“Most of all you miss your family. I am there alone and it's always hard for you to be somewhere alone, so when you are back here in Singapore, you try to maximise your time.
“But when I return I am just hoping to help PDRM, score goals for them and push them up higher in the league.“
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo