Hazwan Bakri, One-on-One: I almost became a fisherman instead!
At 25, Hazwan Bakri is still very much in his prime and has already featured for traditional powerhouses Selangor, before embarking on a journey with Malaysia champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in 2017.
But before he became a footballer, Hazwan only knew two things when he was growing up – fishing and football.
There are no prizes for guessing which he opted for, but it could have all gone wrong when he first joined Kuala Lumpur (KL) in 2009.
“Not many know this but I actually left KL and went back to Labuan thinking I’ll do something else,” Hazwan told FourFourTwo.
“I joined KL after being asked to be part of the President’s Cup team. This was after I didn’t make the cut for the state’s Malaysian Games (SUKMA) squad. I was excited but it wasn’t really going as I had intended and I ran back to my village.
“KL still wanted me but I thought I picked the wrong career and didn’t want to play football. My family convinced me to persevere and at least give it my best shot … I am thankful for that. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Hazwan went on to star for KL, later catching the eye of then-Malaysia under-23 and Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee.
Were it not for a change in his fortunes, Hazwan could well have ended up catching fishes for a living.
I used to like fishing when I was growing up … I’d get on boats with my friends and we’ll go out to the waters. Sometimes we even sold what we caught, especially if it was rare or big
Growing up in a village called Patau-Patau in Labuan, the forward used to spend a lot of time fishing during his childhood.
“I think I would been either been a regular office worker or become a fisherman,” he said.
“I used to like fishing when I was growing up … I’d get on boats with my friends and we’ll go out to the waters. Sometimes we even sold what we caught, especially if it was rare or big.”
Today, Hazwan is grateful for his decision to persevere.
I told myself to be brave in facing the challenges and stress. I knew it was not going to be easy and it still isn’t, but handling it is part of a footballer’s job
From being a nearly-kid, he became the only striker who progressed from the youth national set-ups to don the national colours in recent years.
Yet, it was not till 2012, a year after he was earmarked for greatness by Ong, that Hazwan truly announced himself to the nation.
Given a rare call-up by then-Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal, the striker duly bagged a hat-trick against Sri Lanka to become his nation’s youngest hat-trick scorer as the Tigers ran out 4-0 winners.
“I never expected to kick off my international career in such a manner. I was elated. I still didn’t make the team regularly after that but I knew I wanted to work my way back into contention,” said Hazwan.
“I told myself to be brave in facing the challenges and stress. I knew it was not going to be easy and it still isn’t, but handling it is part of a footballer’s job.”