Hafiz Osman bent on helping Warriors restore past glory

Having been associated with Warriors FC for more than a decade, it pains Hafiz Osman to witness the club’s decline over the last two years. No wonder he’s determined to help them get back to the top again…  

The Warriors are the record nine-time champions of the S.League and last won the title in 2014, but have been nowhere near the top for the past two seasons – finishing fifth (out of 10 teams) and seventh (out of nine).

The previous campaign in particular yielded little joy for both the team and their fans as the uniformed outfit also suffered early exits in both the Singapore Cup and League Cup competitions.

But veteran Hafiz Osman is refusing to delve on the past, as he looks to rally his beloved club to a successful outing in the S.League this season.

“It’s a new year, which means it’s a chance for us to show our abilities and prove that we can do much better than last year,” Hafiz told FourFourTwo.

“Last year, we probably peaked too early during pre-season and were not consistent enough throughout. We only started to pick up our form in the third round but that was a little too late.

“For a club of our stature, it is certainly not good enough. So, we as professional players have to reflect on ourselves and ensure that does not repeat again. Things are looking pretty good for us so far this year, but we still got to stay humble and hungry for success.”

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Hafiz was bitterly disappointed by the Warriors' performance last year

It is still early days, but it does look like the Warriors class of 2017 are in a better shape than 2016.

Coach Razif Onn has assembled a rather handy squad, bringing in the likes of national team centurions Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak, effervescent Canadian forward Jordan Webb, as well as experienced locals like Firdaus Kasman and Fadhil Noh.

As such, Hafiz is reunited with former National Football Academy (NFA) batch mates Baihakki, Shahil and the retained Ridhuan Muhammad.

The atmosphere in the dressing room has certainly livened up, given that it has been a mini-reunion of past and present Singapore national footballers.

With the players we have now, there’s much more banter and jokes in the dressing room and that can only be good for us

“With the players we have now, there’s much more banter and jokes in the dressing room and that can only be good for us,” said the 32-year-old Hafiz, who was part of the 2007 ASEAN Football Championship (now known as the AFF Suzuki Cup) winning squad.

“There’s so much of laughter and lesser stress, that’s what making us bond better. I always believe a happy team is a winning team. From what I see, this year’s squad is slightly better than last year’s, with more depth and experience. With Jordan (Webb) in, he’ll add more firepower to our attack.

“With Bai and Shahril, they not only add quality to our team but also the league itself. Obviously, I’m happy to be reunited with this two because I really miss playing with them.”

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Hafiz is enjoying his partnership with Baihakki at the back

Hafiz has only played for three S.League clubs throughout his career and it is no secret which club tugs at his heart the most.

The veteran has been associated with the Warriors for almost a decade – progressing through the ranks as an under-13 player in 1997 to eventually making his S.League debut in 2003.

He spent nine successful seasons there - winning four successive league titles from 2006 to 2009, as well as lifting back-to-back Singapore Cups in 2007 and 2008, before leaving in 2012.

I owe this club a lot for what I’ve achieved now and I hope that I can repay them by helping the team win our 10th league title. Only by doing that, then I can say I’ve given my all for this club

After spells with Tanjong Pagar United and Geylang International, Hafiz returned to the Warriors in 2016 and will continue for another season. He hopes that this love affair with the club will have a dream ending.

“This club gave me the opportunity to build my football career, made me become a fighter and a winner,” he shared. “I’ve played so many memorable matches for them, including scoring against Kashima Antlers in the 2009 (AFC) Champions League.

“I owe this club a lot for what I’ve achieved now and I hope that I can repay them by helping the team win our 10th league title. Only by doing that, then I can say I’ve given my all for this club.”

Photos: Warriors FC