Geylang defender aiming to make the most of his second shot

A promising career was put on hold after he was called up for National Service, but as defender Anders Aplin told FourFourTwo, he's thankful to be given a belated opportunity and is starting to find his feet at the professional level...

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The name Anders Aplin probably won’t ring a bell to most local football fans.

Given he only made his professional bow in the S.League with Geylang International last year, that is no surprise.

I was the first to get called up for NS while the rest went on to Young Lions. That was when I decided to play in the NFL instead

- Anders Aplin

Yet the 25-year-old hasn’t looked out of place once this season, starting all three of the Eagles’ league games so far.

The route to professional football has not always been easy for the player who turned out for amateur National Football League (NFL) outfit Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) just two years ago.

Aplin was part of the pioneer batch of footballers admitted to the Sports School back in 2004 which included internationals Safuwan Baharudin and Madhu Mohana.

But unlike most of his teammates back then, he did not progress to feature for the Young Lions in the S.League.

“Serving national service with the Commandos was the main reason why I did not play for the Young Lions,” the recently graduated Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student told FourFourTwo.

Anders in action last season

“Back then, I was in the National Football Academy (NFA) under-18s with players from the 1991 batch such as Safuwan, Madhu and Aqhari (Abdullah).

“I was the first to get called up for NS while the rest went on to Young Lions. Although I tried to apply for release from Mindef it was always rejected for two years.

I do wonder what might have been if I had got my release from NS

“That was when I decided to play in the NFL instead.”

Looking at the huge strides some of his former NFA teammates were taking in their footballing careers, while his own came to a standstill, wasn’t easy for Aplin.

“It was difficult especially before I was in the S.League with Geylang and playing in the NFL. I do wonder what might have been if I had got my release from NS,” he said with a tinge of regret.

“I would flip through the papers or go on social media and see them playing for LionsXII.

“But I’m still thankful for how it has turned out as I have managed to make my way back to the top level. I still have some way to catch up with my former teammates as they have already played at the highest level for quite some time.”

Scouted for a spot in the S.League

Despite being away from the spotlight and playing in the lower and unglamorous divisions of Singapore football, Aplin continued to give his best whenever he took to the field. And it was not long before his big break came.

Reflecting on how he was spotted while playing for SRC in the NFL, Aplin said: “Noor Ali was the coach of Yishun Sentek Mariners, who were one of our opponents in the league.

“After that season, he called me up for a trial at Geylang and I just went for it.”

Having been away from the professional set-up since his NFA days, Aplin soon found out the S.League was no walk in the park.

[NEXT: Anders' shock as he tries to take the next step]