David Low: The Nomadic Singapore Footballer
He has never played in Singapore professionally, but David Low insisted he had little regrets, not when he had the career he had.
Packing his bags in 2007, Low would embark on a journey that took him to Australia, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Thailand, Mongolia, Iceland, New Zealand, Italy, Cameroon and Portugal.
I just knew Singapore football was not for me. There’s like a very strange mentality going on and there’s a lot of unprofessionalism
It all began in his early 20s, when he struggled to secure a playing contract in Singapore after the completion of his National Service (NS).
“It was tough because I had to restart everything after stopping for two years,” Low told FourFourTwo. “I trained with a few teams, including Tampines Rover’s Prime League (in 2006).
“From there I just knew Singapore football was not for me. There’s like a very strange mentality going on and there’s a lot of unprofessionalism. It’s a sensitive topic so I don’t want to elaborate too much on that.
“For me, I wasn’t one to dwell on it and let this beat me. If Singapore’s not for me, the world is out there; I’m going to go out and do what I can. My philosophy has been that there are a lot of ways to achieve your goals – some short, some long – you just got to find it.”
While some are apprehensive about leaving their comfort zone at a young age, Low had no such qualms.
“Do you know I grew up in South Africa?” he revealed. “I moved there at 11 with my family; my dad got into missionary work there and the lifestyle here was way too fast.
“I spent seven years before coming back at 18 to serve NS. I finished high school there and played for a local club called Stellas FC.”
Despite his parents’ objection, Low decided to follow his heart.
David Low Fact File
Born: Nov 23, 1983
Clubs: Southwest Phoenix (Australia) - 2007, Western Mass Pioneers (USA) - 2008, Offenburger FV (Germany) - 2008, FC Concordia Basel (Switzerland) - 2009, Buki TK (Hungary) – 2009, Rangsit University (Thailand) - 2011, Khoromkhon FC (Mongolia) - 2012, Southern United (New Zealand) - 2013, CD Chivas II (USA) - 2014, Canon Yaounde (Cameroon) - 2015, Cosmos de Bafia (Cameroon) - 2016
Honours: Mongolian Cup (2012)
“My parents never liked me playing football because they don’t see it as a future (which you can rely on),” he shared.
“I understood as parents, they always thought for your well-being. But sometimes when you have a passion, you just have to go all out.”
Off he went
Low’s first destination was Australia, where he played for South West Phoenix FC in the Football West State League Division 1 for half a season.
His experience there proved to be an eye-opener for the then 23-year-old.
“I had some UK friends playing there and they asked me to come over,” he shared. “I thought ‘This was it. Just go and give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll try something different’.
“It was quite a shocking experience because people are fighting very hard for their places there unlike in Singapore. The football there was very physical and required a lot of fitness.”
Injuries ended his time in Down Under, before he went to United States of America the following year (2008) to play for USL 2 (third-tier) side Western Mass Pioneers for a couple of months while doing a youth coaching programme.
Low then left for Germany in the same year and spent eight months with Oberliga (fifth division) side Offenburger FV – a move that proved critical to his development.
“One US agent gave me this opportunity and I just jetted straight from Boston to Germany, but that was the thing I regretted,” he shared.
From playing in state and minor leagues, now I’m here in a top league. In my mind, it was ‘this is real football now'
“Going to European football, I should have gone to an Eastern European or Scandinavian team, but I went to one of the toughest football countries.
“The trainings there was very hard, it was like military training. They push you, the coaches shout at you. The level’s a few steps ahead and it’s quite a culture shock for an Asian.
“From playing in state and minor leagues, now I’m here in a top league. In my mind, it was ‘this is real football now’. Many players at that level were former Bundesliga reserves or youths.
“Over there, I realise the only way for me to play football at the highest level is to play one touch, two touches, give and go. Before that I was a bit individualistic, I wanted to take on players and show some tricks; hogging on the ball for too long basically. That was where I started to change my football style.”
The following year in 2009, Low took a 45-minute train trip across the border to Switzerland to play as a guest player for FC Basel’s futsal team and ended up signing for their sister club, Swiss second division side FC Concordia Basel.
However, he spent only half a season there before the club went bankrupt.
He then played in Hungary for the rest of the year with third-tier side Buki TK but left the club due to unpaid wages.
“It all came about from a crazy idea to go watch my favourite team Arsenal with my American friend, they were playing a first division team called Szombathelyi Haladas in pre-season,” he explained.
“We got to train with the club’s reserves but it was an under-21 outfit so they recommended us to Buki.”
The adventurous footballer decided to try his luck in Singapore once again upon his return in 2010, but failed to impress in a trial with Geylang United (now Geylang International).
Lacking options, Low instead played for Keppel Monaco (now Yishun Sentek Mariners) in the National Football League (NFL) for a season.
He would then leave for Thailand in 2011 and had training stints with Chonburi FC and Bangkok United, before signing for second-tier Rangsit University, but left after just three months due to unpaid wages.