Former teen prodigy Adam Swandi determined to play catch up

Adam Swandi was once the toast of the nation when he became a Singapore international at 17, but his career has since stagnated. Now, the midfielder is determined to fulfil his potential... 

With a couple of smooth step-overs and dummies, Adam Swandi left his opponent red-faced on the ground as he dribbled skilfully towards goal.

That is just a taste of what Adam can deliver, whenever he takes to the field.

The 21-year-old’s progress seemed to have halted in recent years, especially after returning home to serve National Service (NS) in 2015

Widely acknowledged as one of Singapore’s brightest attacking prospects, Adam first burst onto the scene as a wide-eyed 15-year-old in the 2011 Lion City Cup.

In that tournament, he shone against his counterparts from more illustrious European clubs like Newcastle and Juventus, and subsequently had a two-year stint with French outfit FC Metz in 2013.

Despite the great strides made early on in his career, the 21-year-old’s progress seemed to have halted in recent years, especially after returning home to serve National Service (NS) in 2015.

Initially, Adam had to miss out on training and games due to his National Service commitments. Although he would return to the field in time to come, Adam felt the damage had already been done.

Adam said his time at Young Lions was frustrating

Speaking to FourFourTwo, Adam admitted: “I think my football progress has not been as ideal as how I would have imagined it to be.

“To be honest, I felt it was quite a frustrating season for me playing with the Young Lions last year.

“Due to the age group of the players, I was considered a senior and I did not have a lot of senior players to look up to and learn from.

This season with Home United has been a positive one but I’m still gunning for better results individually and as a team

However, being an integral part of a free-flowing Home United this season has gone a long way in helping the silky playmaker rediscover his past swagger.

The Protectors came calling for his services and although Adam’s spot in the Southeast Asian Games 2017 squad was at risk, he chose to join Home.

“But I do not regret any of my decisions and to date, I’m quite happy with what I have achieved,” he shared.

“This season with Home United has been a positive one but I’m still gunning for better results individually and as a team. I really want to improve myself and right from the start of the season, I have been trying to catch up to the levels of senior players such as Faris (Ramli) and Hariss (Harun).”

Adam relishes the challenge with Home

Despite his tender age, the challenge of making his mark in the star-studded Home United side has not deterred Adam.

In fact, he has been a regular fixture for Home throughout the season so far.

His past experiences of overcoming similarly difficult obstacles, especially those that he faced while playing with Metz, have also helped him.

This is very different in Singapore where the talent pool is much smaller and even if you don’t perform for one match, you could still be in the team

“The main challenge I faced playing in Metz was the language barrier. It’s France after all and everyone speaks French,” he explained.

“It was very hard communicating both on and off the pitch. Even something as simple as saying ‘man on’ was very hard because I had to make it come naturally to me. I had to learn the language and it took me a few months to get accustomed to it.

“Competition there was also very fierce with a big talent pool and that’s what drives the players there to be better. You have to take every single opportunity to perform because if you don’t, there could be a new trialist coming the next day to take your place in the team.

“This is very different in Singapore where the talent pool is much smaller and even if you don’t perform for one match, you could still be in the team.”

Setting his sights on Europe once again

Armed with his experience of playing in Europe, Adam hoped that he can help the Singapore under-22 team achieve their goals when they kick-off their SEA games campaign next month.

Having been part of the 2015 SEA games squad where Singapore crashed out at the group stages despite being heavily favoured to do well, he understood that public expectations of the team is at an all-time low.

While the SEA Games was Adam’s priority for now, he still has one eye on achieving his childhood dream of playing in Europe

“Personally, I feel slightly down that not many people have high hopes for us. But looking at it positively, that’s when we can spring some surprises and make everyone realise that we have actually been training hard,” he added.

“I think that the team is shaping up well and what we are lacking are just the goals. But I believe that with senior players such as me and Irfan (Fandi), we can contribute the experience that we have gained from training with the senior national players and we will do well.”

While the SEA Games was Adam’s priority for now, he still has one eye on achieving his childhood dream of playing in Europe.

“Back then, Metz were keen on extending my contract for another year but I told them I wanted to complete my NS first,” he explained.

“For now, my main target is to establish myself in Singapore by being a regular with the senior national team and hopefully I can get my chance overseas from there.

“For Asians, it is slightly harder to make it in Europe because there’s a quota for foreigners in their leagues and we have to compete with the bigger boys from South America for the places.

“But in any footballer’s mind, we always aim to go as far as we can. As everyone knows, the highest level is in Europe and that’s our ultimate goal. We aim far so even if we don’t achieve it, at least we are not too far away.”

Photos: S.League